Rights groups urge UN chief to condemn China over Uighur Muslims

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Masyarakat muslim Uighur di Xinjiang, RRT. (Foto: Radio Free Asia)

SHAFAQNA-Five human rights organizations are urging Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to condemn the Chinese government over detention of more than a million Muslims in the Xinjiang region and call for the immediate closure of government detention camps,  AP reported.

In a letter to the U.N. chief released Tuesday, the organizations said these actions would be an important contribution to addressing “one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time.”

It was signed by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Uyghur Conference.

Criticism has grown over China’s internment of the Uighurs and members of other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups, and Guterres has been criticized previously by human rights groups and some governments for his behind-the-scenes approach and failure to address their plight publicly.

The five rights organizations cautioned Guterres “against any action that might lend credence to Beijing’s narrative that the unlawful detention of over a million Uighurs and other Muslims is a necessary measure to counter terrorism.”

In the letter, they said he had not only refrained from publicly criticizing China but had praised its “Belt and Road” initiative” in which Xinjiang is a centerpiece, “despite the human rights concerns it has raised.”

“The public silence over the mass detention in Xinjiang in the context of such a glowing commentary sends a distressing message of abandonment to the millions of Turkic Muslims who live in constant fear for themselves and their families,” the rights groups said.

They urged Guterres to meet with Uighur representatives to hear firsthand of their plight.

The rights groups said it was important for the secretary-general speaking out about the situation.

“By actively contributing to the growing chorus of global criticism you could help end this large-scale repression of a marginalized community, which may prove to be one of the defining issues of your tenure as secretary-general,” they said.

An estimated one million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims are held in Chinese political reeducation camps in Xinjiang. HRW says an additional unknown number are held in prisons and other detention centers.

Trapped along with them are Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Uzbeks, other Muslim minorities, though in smaller numbers. The Uighurs still on the outside are living in one of the world’s most pervasive and heavy-handed surveillance regimes, in which the camps are just one form of containment and punishment. Uighurs live in constant fear of arbitrary detention and can expect swift retribution for any expression of Turkic or Muslim identity—to the absurd extent that giving your child a traditional Muslim name is illegal, according to foreignpolicy.

the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Chinese government to release an undetermined number of Uighur children being arbitrarily held in so-called “child welfare” institutions and boarding schools in Xinjiang.

In a statement Monday, said “Chinese authorities have housed countless children whose parents are detained or in exile in state-run child welfare institutions and boarding schools without parental consent or access”, Time reported.

The rights group’s China director, Sophie Richardson, said “The Chinese government’s forced separation of children is perhaps the cruelest element of its oppression in Xinjiang. Children should be either immediately returned to the custody of relatives in China or allowed to join their parents outside the country.”

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