The Australian statement said arbitrary detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang was "more likely to exacerbate than prevent religious extremism" and called for their immediate release.
Australian diplomats are not permitted to travel to Xinjiang, and Australia, which is a member of the UN Human Rights Council, urged China to allow the United Nations and foreign officials access to Xinjiang.
Fairfax Media travelled independently to Xinjiang last month, obtaining rare photographs of some of the massive new re-education centres for Uighurs, before being detained by Chinese police.
Xinjiang residents in Turpan told Fairfax Media that 40 per cent of the town was being held inside large white buildings surrounded with razor wire and surveillance cameras, across seven sites in Turpan.
No inmates had left the centres since they were built two years ago, although Turpan inmates were allowed one phone call a week and a visit from family every 15 days.
Fairfax Media witnessed Uighurs undergoing repeated identity checks at road blocks to enter towns, and having to prove to police their reasons and permission to travel to exit train stations.
Australia’s statement to the UN review called for China to cease restrictions on Uighur’s freedom of movement.
Australia has one of the largest populations of expatriate Uighurs outside of Turkey and central Asia. The department of foreign affairs told a recent Senate hearing that Uighur Australians had sought assistance from their local members of parliament after losing contact with family members in Xinjiang.
China argues its new policy of sending Uighurs to what it terms vocational training centres to learn Chinese, study national laws and acquire work skills, is a preventative measures to stop terrorism.
But the Australian statement to the UN review said Australia shares the alarm of the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) at "numerous reports of detention of large numbers of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim groups held incommunicado and often for long periods without being charged or tried, which exacerbates rather than prevents religious extremism".
China’s delegation to the UN review included Yasim Sadiq, the mayor of Xinjiang’s capital Urumuqi, who said that the Uighurs inside the centres were students being shown how to resist religious extremism. They were discovering “how rich and colourful life could be”.
“The extreme terrorism in Xinjiang was quite serious,” he said.
When Fairfax Media travelled to Urumuqi, journalists were forced to delete photographs of police guarding mosques, and were followed by six secret police in two cars.
Other countries to question China on the treatment of Uighurs included Canada, France, Germany, Britain, the Czech Republic, Finland and the United States.
China’s vice minister of foreign affairs, Le Yucheng, said: “We will not accept the politically-driven accusations of a few countries that are fraught with biases and in total disregard of the facts.”
He added that “stability is most important” in Xinjiang and the training centres were “a preventative measure to combat terrorism”.
Trainees would receive a diploma when they graduated from the centres, the UN review was told.