Nearly 40 countries defend China over Xinjiang internment camps in UN letter

A watchtower on a high-security facility near what is believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained in Xinjiang region. — AFP

A watchtower on a high-security facility near what is believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained in Xinjiang region. — AFP

Nearly 40 states have written to the United Nations supporting China's policies in the western region of Xinjiang, a Chinese diplomat told the U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday.

Majority-Muslim countries have been silent on the issue and none were cosignatories of the letter denouncing China.

On Friday a diverse group of states - including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Algeria and North Korea - replied on Beijing's behalf, claiming China had faced terrorism, separatism and religious extremism in Xinjiang, the vast northwest region that is mainly Muslim.

Twenty-two countries at the United Nations' human rights body issued a joint statement this week urging China to end its violations of human rights against Muslims in Xinjiang.

In addition to travel restrictions and a massive surveillance network, China is estimated to have arbitrarily detained up to 1 million Muslims in prison-like detention centers in Xinjiang, with reports of harsh treatment and poor living conditions inside.

But the letter supporting China commended what it called China's remarkable achievements in the field of human rights.

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"We note with appreciation that human rights are respected and protected in China in the process of counterterrorism and de-radicalisation", they said in the letter to the UN.

The Chinese side has invited a number of diplomats, media outlets, experts and scholars from various countries to visit Xinjiang and also sent invitations to the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, he said.

Geng stressed that Xinjiang issues were totally China's internal affairs, which were related to China's sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.

After initially denying their existence, Beijing has gone on a public relations blitz in a bid to counter the global outcry against what it calls "vocational education centres" in Xinjiang.

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has requested a fact-finding mission to Xinjiang.

Beijing on Thursday dismissed the Western letter as "slander". But the worldwide official typically only undertakes such national visits provided the host government offers guarantees on certain conditions - including unfettered access to key sites.

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