Crimes against humanity in an open-air prison? Or Western lies and a new Afghanistan?
The ethnic crisis in Xinjiang has triggered a war of words between China and the United States and its allies.
Earlier this week, it reached new levels of rhetoric after the US State Department released its 2020 Report on International Religious Freedom.
“Essentially, the entire [Xinjiang] region [has been turned] into an open-air prison,” Daniel Nadel, a senior official at the State Department’s Office of International Freedom, told a media briefing.
At least one million Uighur Muslims have been held in Xinjiang internment camps amid allegations of torture, sexual abuse and “genocide,” human rights groups have reported.
China has denied the claims. But that has not stopped major global democracies from condemning President Xi Jinping’s government at the United Nations.
“We will keep standing up and speaking out until China’s government stops its crimes against humanity and the genocide of Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the UN, told a virtual summit of nearly 50 nations on Wednesday.
- The US State Department report painted a bleak picture.
- High tech surveillance systems have “essentially’ turned “the entire region into an open-air prison.”
- “People’s movements are closely tracked.”
- Minders have been “assigned to live with Uighurs” to follow their every move.
- The report stated that the crackdown on Muslims was “the culmination of decades of repression of religious adherents.”
- Earlier, Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard told UN members that there were an estimated one million Uighurs and predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities detained in internment camps.
- China has called them “reeducation centers” and has categorically denied the accusations.
What was said: “In Xinjiang, people are being tortured. Women are being forcibly sterilized,” US Ambassador to the UN Thomas-Greenfield said.
Western lies: “China has nothing to hide in Xinjiang … [it] is always open. We welcome everyone to visit Xinjiang, but we oppose any kind of investigation based on lies and with the presumption of guilt,” Guo Jiakun, who is part of China’s UN delegation, said in response.
Delve deeper: The UN online event was organized by Germany, the United Kingdom and the US. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other European nations acted as co-sponsors. “Germany’s UN Ambassador Christoph Heusgen said countries who sponsored the event faced ‘massive Chinese threats,’ but did not elaborate,” Reuters news agency reported.
Ethnic repression: “[The Xinjiang situation is] one of the worst human rights crises of our time. The evidence … points to a program of repression of specific ethnic groups,” Barbara Woodward, the British ambassador to the UN, said.
New Afghanistan: “It is hard to believe that the true intention of the US over Xinjiang is to protect human rights of Uighur people, rather than to mess up Xinjiang and make the place as turbulent as Afghanistan. By the way, Afghanistan borders China’s Xinjiang,” Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief at state-run Global Times and ‘unofficial’ foreign ministry spokesman for the Communist Party, tweeted.
China Factor comment: Beijing has constantly called allegations of ethnic abuse “fabricated lies” that are being used to “smear and slander China.” But the fact that Xi’s administration has categorically refused to allow a UN team unfettered access inside Xinjiang smacks of a state-controlled disinformation campaign.