This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Beijing has rejected what it called “slanderous attacks” against China about living conditions for Muslim Uyghurs and other minorities in its western region of Xinjiang.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva that Uyghurs and other minorities living in Xinjiang enjoy freedom of religion and labor rights.
While other countries are considering possible actions over allegations that China is committing “genocide” against Uyghurs, Wang described Beijing’s treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang as a “shining example” of China’s human rights progress.
Activists and UN rights experts say at least a million Muslims have been detained at camps in the remote region.
Beijing initially denied the existence of the camps. But faced with substantial evidence, it now claims the camps are there to provide vocational training. It also says the camps are needed to fight Islamic extremism.
Earlier on February 22, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab denounced what he described as torture, forced labor, and sterilizations against Uyghurs on an “industrial scale” in Xinjiang.
“The situation in Xinjiang is beyond the pale,” Raab said.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: “Our commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also leaves no room for the arbitrary detention of ethnic minorities like the Uyghurs in Xinjiang or China’s crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong.”
But Wang told the UN Human Rights Council that Beijing was conducting its counterterrorism measures in accordance with the law. He said Xinjiang was now experiencing “social stability and sound development” after four years without any “terrorist case.”
He also said that 24,000 mosques are allowed to operate in Xinjiang.
“These basic facts show that there has never been so-called genocide, forced labor, or religious oppression in Xinjiang,” Wang said.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration In January endorsed a last-minute determination by the Trump administration that China had committed genocide in Xinjiang. Biden has said the United States must be prepared to impose costs on China.
The office of UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet is in the midst of negotiations of terms for a team of observers to access China.
Wang on February 22 invited UN monitors to scrutinize the situation in Xinjiang. But he did not provide a timetable for his invitation.
“The door to Xinjiang is always open,” Wang said. “China also welcomes the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Xinjiang.”