By Servet Gunerigok
WASHINGTON (AA) - Forty-three UN nations on Thursday called for "immediate" access to Xinjiang -- the autonomous Muslim majority region in northwestern China where Uyghurs and other ethnic groups are facing alleged rights abuses.
A statement issued by the Third Committee -- the UN's committee on human rights -- said the member states were "particularly concerned about the situation" in Xinjiang, referring to China's treatment of the minorities.
The statement cited reports of a large network of "political re-education" camps, systematic human rights violations, forced sterilization and "severe restrictions" on freedom of religion.
"We thus call on China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office, and relevant special procedure mandate holders, as well as to urgently implement (Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination) CERD’s eight recommendations related to Xinjiang," said the statement.
"We urge China to ensure full respect for the rule of law and to comply with its obligations under national and international law with regard to the protection of human rights," it said.
The countries include Australia, Canada, Germany, Honduras, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Northern Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, UK, US, and France, among others.
According to UN data, at least 1 million Uyghurs are held against their will in places Beijing calls "vocational training centers," which the international community defines as "re-education camps."
China does not provide information on how many camps are in Xinjiang, the number of people held or how many have returned to social life.
While the UN and other international organizations reiterated demands that the camps be opened for inspection, China has allowed a few designated centers to be partially viewed by a small number of foreign diplomats and journalists.
Several countries have accused China of ethnically cleansing Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Beijing has denied any wrongdoing, dismissing the allegations as "lies and (a) political virus."
*Betul Yuruk in New York contributed to the story