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PH, 36 countries defend China

July 14, 2019

GENEVA: UN ambassadors from 37 countries released a letter Friday (Saturday in Manila) defending China’s treatment of Uighur and other minorities in the Xinjiang region, in direct response to Western criticism earlier this week.

Envoys from across the European Union (EU) — along with Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand — had earlier co-signed a text denouncing China’s conduct in Xinjiang, where 1 million people, mostly ethnic Uighurs, are reportedly being held in internment camps.

This photo taken on May 31, 2019 shows Uighur men leaving a mosque after prayers in Hotan in China’s northwest Xinjiang region. China has enforced a massive security crackdown in Xinjiang, where more than one million ethnic Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are believed to be held in a network of internment camps that Beijing describes as “vocational education centers” aimed at steering people away from religious extremism. AFP PHOTO

On Friday, a diverse group of states — including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Algeria and North Korea — replied on Beijing’s behalf.

“We commend China’s remarkable achievements in the field of human rights,” said the letter, also signed by Myanmar, the Philippines, Zimbabwe and others.

“We take note that terrorism, separatism and religious extremism has caused enormous damage to people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang,” it said.

Rights groups and former inmates describe the internment sites in Xinjiang as “concentration camps” where mainly Muslim Uighurs and other minorities are being forcefully assimilated into China’s majority ethnic Han society.

Echoing China’s defense of the camps, the letter described them as “vocational education and training centers.”

“Now safety and security has returned to Xinjiang,” it said.

The group of ambassadors asked for the letter to be recorded as an official document of the Human Rights Council, which wrapped up its 41st session in Geneva on Friday.

The Western diplomats had made the same request.

Beijing on Thursday dismissed the Western letter as “slander.”

Tit-for-tat open letters are rare at the UN’s top rights body, where states typically try to hammer out formal resolutions during closed-door negotiations.

After initially denying their existence, Beijing has gone on a public relations blitz in a bid to counter the global outcry against what it calls “vocational education centers” in Xinjiang.

Since October, the local government has also organized tours of the camps for diplomats and media outlets.

UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet has requested a fact-finding mission to Xinjiang.

Beijing has said she is welcome, but the rights office has stressed that a visit will be only possible on certain conditions — including unfettered access to key sites.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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