China rejected “slanderous attacks” on the conditions of Muslim Uighurs and other minorities living in its Xinjiang area, saying they enjoyed religious freedom and other fundamental rights.
Speaking to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said there were 24,000 mosques in the western region, adding that “basic facts show that in Xinjiang there has never been so-called genocide, forced labour or religious oppression.”
“The door to Xinjiang is always open. People from many countries who have visited Xinjiang have learned the facts and the truth on the ground. China also welcomes the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Xinjiang,” Wang said, referring to UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet, whose office has been negotiating terms of access to the country.
Activists and UN rights experts have said that in the remote western region, at least one million Muslims are imprisoned in camps.
China condemns violations and argues that its camps provide technical training and are essential to tackle extremism.
On Monday, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom, Dominic Raab, condemned torture, forced labor and sterilization against Muslim Uighurs on a “industrial scale.”
“The situation in Xinjiang is beyond the pale,” Raab told the Geneva forum where China is among the 47 member states.
“The reported abuses – which include torture, forced labour and forced sterilisation of women – are extreme and they are extensive. They are taking place on an industrial scale,” he said.
Raab called for “urgent and unrestricted access” to Xinjiang to be granted to Bachelet or another independent expert and said that a resolution should be reached in the Council to this effect.
In a new report last month, a bipartisan commission of the U.S. Congress said that China may have committed ‘genocide’ in its treatment of Uighurs and other minority Muslims in its western Xinjiang region.
In the past year, fresh information has emerged from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) that “crimes against humanity and possibly genocide are occurring.”
In December last year, in China’s Xinjiang, Human Rights Watch said a big data program “arbitrarily selects” Muslims for detention, flagging actions such as wearing a hijab, learning the Quran or going on a Hajj pilgrimage as a pretext for arrest.
US President Joe Biden supported the Trump administration’s last-minute decision that China had perpetrated genocide in Xinjiang and said that Washington needed to be prepared to raise costs on China.