Beijing has come under fire from activists, foreign governments and the UN over recent months over reports over the unprecedented surveillance the Uighurs face. This is in addition to a United Nations report that up to 1 million Uighurs have been rounded up in detention camps.
In a news briefing in Washington on Monday, the group of 278 scholars hailing from various disciplines and from across the world called on China to end its mass detention of Muslim minorities, and for sanctions targeting some Chinese leaders and security companies taking part in the crackdown.
"This situation must be addressed to prevent setting negative future precedents regarding the acceptability of any state’s complete repression of a segment of its population, especially on the basis of ethnicity or religion," a statement from the group read.
Michael Clarke, an associate professor at the Australian National University and expert on the Xinjiang region, told reporters after signing the statement that China relies on international respect to maintain its high-ranking position in global affairs.
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"The international community needs to demonstrate to Beijing that it will not actually get that while it’s doing this to a significant portion of its own citizenry," Clarke said, as reported by Reuters.
Beijing has repeatedly denied the allegations of mass detention camps, claiming that there were "vocational" trainingcentres for people who have committed minor offences. Officials claim the camps teach skills for the workplace as well as legal knowledge in order to curb militancy and extremism.
Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of US lawmakers introduced a bill urging US authorities to impose targeted sanctions on members of China's government, the ruling Communist Party and state security apparatus, as well Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo and other officials.
They were accused of being allegedly "responsible for human rights abuses in Xinjiang and elsewhere".
Washington must hold government and Communist Party officials "responsible for gross violations of human rights and possible crimes against humanity, including the internment in 'politicalreeducation' camps of as many as a million Uighur and other predominantly Muslim minorities", Senator Marco Rubio, a chief sponsor, said in a statement, although Beijing vehemently rejects the accusations.
"Where do US lawmakers get this inexplicable sense of superiority from, and how can they make irresponsible remarks about the internal affairs of other countries?" Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a briefing.
Agencies contributed to this report.