By Bayram Altug
GENEVA (AA) - Nearly two dozen countries have called on China to refrain from the arbitrary detention of Uighurs and other minorities in the country’s northwestern autonomous region.
This came in a letter to UNHCR president signed by diplomats of 22 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Denmark, Norway, Northern Ireland, the Netherlands, Iceland, Luxembourg, Spain, Austria, Ireland, Belgium and Switzerland.
China’s Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45% of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused China’s authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.
Up to one million people, or about 7% of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, have been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to U.S. officials and UN experts.
“We call on China to uphold its national laws and international obligations and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion or belief, in Xinjiang and across China. We also call on China to refrain from the arbitrary detention and restrictions on freedom of movement of Uighurs, and other Muslim and minority communities in Xinjiang,” read the letter by mainly Western countries.
The letter expressed concerns over reports of detention centers, intensive surveillance and other restrictions that mainly target Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.
Meanwhile, China's Ambassador to UN Chen Xu rejected the accusations, saying the letter written by "a small group of Western countries" is “politically motivated”.
In a report last September, Human Rights Watch accused the Chinese government of carrying out a “systematic campaign of human rights violations” against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.