Report: Western Coalition Pressures China to Meet About Muslim Re-Education Camps

Uyghurs people demonstrate against China outside of the United Nations (UN) offices during the Universal Periodic Review of China by the UN Human Rights Council, on November 6, 2018 in Geneva. - China's mass detainment of ethnic Uighurs and its crackdown on civil liberties likely figures high on the agenda …
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

A Canada-led coalition of 15 unidentified Western ambassadors in Beijing is pushing for a meeting with Xinjiang’s Communist Party boss to discuss the rampant human rights abuses against the province’s Muslim Uighur minority, Reuters reported Thursday. 

The Western envoys reportedly wrote a letter requesting the meeting with the Beijing-appointed Xinjiang chief, Chen Quanguo. 

A draft of the letter obtained by Reuters declares:

We are deeply troubled by reports of the treatment of ethnic minorities, in particular individuals of Uyghur ethnicity, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In order to better understand the situation, we request a meeting with you at your earliest convenience to discuss these concerns. 

The letter is a testament to the mounting international anger Beijing is facing because of its crackdown against the Uighur Muslim majority in Xinjiang province, something China denies. 

On Tuesday, China’s top diplomat dismissed the alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang as “gossip,” urging the international community to trust Beijing-appointed authorities there.

According to Reuters, the ambassadors included in the letter are Canadian, British, French, Swiss, German, Dutch, Australian, Irish, Swedish, Belgian, Norwegian, Estonian, Finnish, and Danish envoys, whom it declined to name.

While the letter did not include an American envoy, U.S. President Donald Trump and members of Congress have expressed a willingness to sanction Beijing for the abuses at the concentration camps in Xinjiang. 

The United Nations and the U.S. have confirmed the existence of the re-education centers, which some news reports suggest are holding relatives of American citizens.

In an unusual move, China’s top ally, Pakistan, urged Beijing to take steps to address the human rights issues at Xinjiang, a demand that came as many foreign governments have refrained from speaking out about the Xinjiang situation, allegedly fearful of angering China.

China has forced between 800,000 and more than one million Uighurs accused of terrorism, separatism, extremism, or disloyalty to the Communist Party into dozens of political re-education centers.

China denies the existence of the concentration camps, as they are known to some, arguing they are actually vocational centers intended to purge extremism, separatism, and terrorism from Uighur Muslims. 

As part of Beijing’s mind-transformation efforts in Xinjiang, Muslim residents there are subjected to forced Communist Party indoctrination, systemic torture, disappearances, executions, and arbitrary detentions. 

In its annual report unveiled last month, the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China found:

Security personnel at these facilities reportedly subjected detainees to political indoctrination and forced marching; overcrowding; poor quality food; and torture, including in the forms of medical neglect and maltreatment, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, lack of adequate clothing in cold temperatures, and other forms of abuse.

The U.S. commission noted that Germany-based scholar Adrian Zenz estimated in August the presence of ‘‘up to 1,300’’ ‘‘political re-education’’ centers across Xinjiang, adding that more political re-education centers are being built,

Although Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying reportedly claimed she had not seen the letter, she told Reuters that ambassadors are welcome to Xinjiang but if “they want to go with the intention of pressuring the Xinjiang government, then this is definitely problematic.”

“We will firmly oppose ill-intentioned and biased attempts to interfere in the affairs of our local governments, or rashly criticize China over its internal affairs,” she warned. 

China claims to face a threat from Uighur jihadists who train across the border from Xinjiang in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some have reportedly carried out attacks on Chinese soil. However, human rights groups have accused Beijing of systemically oppressing its Muslim Uighur minority under the guise of fighting terrorism and separatism.

Reportedly, some Uighurs who have converted to Christianity have also been sent to the mind-transformation camps.

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