China rejects growing Western criticism at UN rights forum

A watchtower on a high-security facility near what is believed to be a re-education camp in Xinjiang, China, on May 31, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (REUTERS) - China hit back on Wednesday (Feb 24) at growing criticism by Western powers of its treatment of ethnic minorities in the regions of Xinjiang and Tibet and of citizens in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

Hours earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a wide-ranging speech to the UN Human Rights Council, said that the Biden administration would denounce atrocities in Xinjiang.

"At this high-level segment, the UK, EU, Germany, USA, Canada and some other countries abused this forum of the council to make groundless charges against China, to interfere in internal affairs of our country. We firmly oppose and categorically reject these attempts," Mr Chen Xu, China's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told the forum.

Britain's foreign minister, Mr Dominic Raab, kicked off the Western rebukes on Monday, denouncing torture, forced labour and sterilisations that he said were taking place against Muslim Uighurs on an "industrial scale" in Xinjiang.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called on China on Tuesday to allow UN human rights boss Michelle Bachelet to visit and investigate alleged mistreatment of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang and of people in Tibet.

"Ignoring reality, the above-mentioned countries fabricate and spread lies about Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong," Mr Chen said.

Activists and UN rights experts have said that at least one million Muslims are detained in camps in the remote western region of Xinjiang. China denies abuses and says its camps provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.

Mr Chen suggested that Western powers should work to improve their own records, singling out for criticism overseas military interventions which resulted in "repeated killing of innocent people".

"They should resolve their own human rights problems such as deep-rooted racial discrimination, gaps between rich and poor, social inequity, injustice, police brutality," he added.

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