A UNITED NATIONS HUMAN rights committee criticized China for what it said were "credible reports" that 1 million ethnic Uighurs were being effectively imprisoned and their Xinjiang region home had been turned into "something that resembles a massive internment camp."
The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Friday accused China of conducting widespread "re-education" of Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic minority in the western part of the country, in the name of anti-terrorism measures against a separatist movement.
"We are deeply concerned at the many numerous and credible reports that we have received that in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability (China) has changed the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internship camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of 'no rights zone,'" Gay McDougall, a member of the panel, was quoted by Reuters as saying at the start of a two-day meeting on China.
Hundreds of thousands are being held in internment camps, McDougall said, while others are being detained at counter-extremism centers.
"All of these detainees have had their due process rights violated," she said. "Most have never been charged with an offense, tried in a court of law or afforded an opportunity to challenge the illegality of their detention. Many just disappear. Their relatives never know what happened to them."
Amnesty International and other human rights groups have alleged that the ruling Chinese have increasingly cracked down on the region since 2017, forcing the population to swear loyalty to Chinese President Xi Jinping and to the Communist Party, keeping them in poor living conditions and subjecting them to torture.The Chinese did not immediately respond to the allegations on Friday, some of the strongest so far against Beijing's treatment of the group, but Beijing has previously denied the existence of such camps.
The Chinese government has touted strong economic growth in the region, which is officially called the Xinjiang Autonomous Region but called East Turkestan by the Uighurs. Between 2008 and 2015, the Chinese said in a report to the U.N. committee, according to The Globe and Mail, the Xinjiang per-capita more than doubled while disposable income increased there faster than anywhere else in China.
"The Chinese Government respects and protects the freedom of religious beliefs as well as the customs of Muslims," the report says.