22 states call on China to end arbitrary detention of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang

22 United Nations (UN) Member States have co-signed a letter calling on China to end the arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China.

The letter, dated 8 July and addressed to the President of the UN Human Rights Council and High Commissioner for Human Rights, expresses concern about “credible reports of arbitrary detention in large-scale places of detention,” as well as widespread surveillance, and calls on China to respect the right to freedom of religion or belief and other human rights in Xinjiang and across China. The signatories also call for “meaningful access” to the region for independent international observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Over one million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and members of other ethnic groups have been detained without charge in political re-education camps in Xinjiang. Recent estimates are as high as three million. As previously reported by CSW, the strength of the evidence leaves no doubt that mass detentions are taking place in XUAR which violate domestic and international law.

Reasons for detention in the camps include having the messaging service WhatsApp on one’s phone, having relatives living abroad, and accessing religious materials online. Witnesses say detainees are subject to torture and ill-treatment. Chinese authorities say the camps offer vocational training to ‘save’ people from extremism.

China has continued to tightly control and restrict visits to Xinjiang, with some areas completely off limits. In February CSW joined over 15 organisations in calling on the UN Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution establishing an international fact-finding mission to investigate the detentions in the region.

At the 41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council this July, CSW and three other organisations delivered a statement expressing concerns over the use of surveillance technology to restrict the fundamental freedoms of Uyghur Muslims.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “We welcome the letter signed by 22 states calling on China to end arbitrary detention and human rights violations in Xinjiang. The situation in the region is nothing short of a human rights crisis: both inside and outside the camps Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are subject to grave violations of their fundamental human rights. Every day, families are torn apart as parents are sent to the camps, and children are taken away to state facilities. Around the world, millions of Uyghurs are desperate to hear news of their loved ones. We echo the letter’s signatories in calling for an end to the appalling situation, and call on the international community to do everything possible to bring this about.”

CSW, csw.org.uk