Commentary on Political Economy

Friday, 7 May 2021


China tries to scupper UN talk on plight of Uighurs

Beijing’s mission asks other members not to attend, with Human Rights Watch saying it continues pattern of ‘trying to bully governments into silence’

A protest in Istanbul against China’s detention of Uighurs.
A protest in Istanbul against China’s detention of Uighurs. Photograph: Ozan Köse/AFP/Getty Images
Staff and agencies
Sat 8 May 2021 05.41 BST

China is trying to convince UN member states to boycott an event planned next week by Germany, the US and Britain on the repression of Uighur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to a note seen by Reuters on Friday.

China charged that the organisers, who include several other European states along with Australia and Canada, use “human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China’s development”.

Louis Charbonneau, the Human Rights Watch UN director, said on Friday: “Beijing has been trying for years to bully governments into silence but that strategy has failed miserably, as more and more states step forward to voice horror and revulsion at China’s crimes against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims.”

China’s UN mission wrote in the note, dated Thursday: “It is a politically motivated event … We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.” The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ambassadors of the US, Germany and Britain are due to address the virtual UN event on Wednesday, along with the Human Rights Watch executive director, Ken Roth, and the Amnesty secretary general, Agnes Callamard.

The aim of the event is to “discuss how the UN system, member states and civil society can support and advocate for the human rights of members of ethnic Turkic communities in Xinjiang”, according to an invitation.

Western states and rights groups have accused authorities in Xinjiang of detaining and torturing Uyghurs in camps, which the United States has described as genocide. In January, Washington banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labour. Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training centres to combat religious extremism.

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