China urges UN states not to attend Xinjiang event next week

In a photo taken on Sept 3, 2018, security guards stand at the gates of what is officially known as a vocational skills education center in Huocheng County in Xinjiang.
In a photo taken on Sept 3, 2018, security guards stand at the gates of what is officially known as a vocational skills education center in Huocheng County in Xinjiang.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS, CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - China has urged United Nations member states not to attend an event planned next week by Germany, the United States and Britain on the repression of Uighur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to a note seen by Reuters on Friday (May 7).

"It is a politically-motivated event," China's UN mission wrote in the note, dated Thursday. "We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event."

China charged that the organisers of the event, which also include several other European states along with Australia and Canada, use "human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China's internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China's development".

"They are obsessed with provoking confrontation with China," the note said, adding that "the provocative event can only lead to more confrontation".

The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Britain are due to address the virtual US event on Wednesday, along with Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.

The aim of the event is to "discuss how the UN system, member states and civil society can support and advocate for the human rights of members of ethnic Turkic communities in Xinjiang," according to an invitation.

Western states and rights groups have accused authorities in Xinjiang of detaining and torturing Uighurs in camps, which the United States has described as genocide. In January, Washington banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labour.

Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training centres to combat religious extremism.

"Beijing has been trying for years to bully governments into silence but that strategy has failed miserably, as more and states step forward to voice horror and revulsion at China's crimes against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims," Human Rights Watch UN director Louis Charbonneau said on Friday.

Separately, China's ambassador in Washington on Thursday called for the US and other Western countries to stop spreading misinformation about Xinjiang and listen to what the 25 million people there and the rest of China say about the beautiful area.

Mr Cui Tiankai said that critics should "heed the opinions of objective and rational scholars and media, especially those from other countries and regions, so they will be able to tell truth from falsehood and right from wrong".

Mr Cui spoke during an online meeting titled "Xinjiang is a Wonderful Land".

"In the past 40 years, the Uigur population in Xinjiang has more than doubled-does that look like genocide?" Cui asked.

The ambassador said he has been to Xinjiang many times. More than 1,200 people, including UN officials, foreign diplomatic envoys to China, journalists and religious groups, visited Xinjiang over the past several years, and many social media influencers are seen on the streets conducting interviews. The real Xinjiang is entirely different from the version some Western politicians and media have portrayed.

Mr Cui also said that talk of "forced labour" is groundless. Workers in Xinjiang choose their own jobs, including those in the high-income industry of cotton harvesting, of their own volition. They sign labour contracts as free and equal parties, their rights and interests are well protected and they enjoy full remuneration.

"Given such undeniable facts, why are some Western organisations and individuals, disguised as academic institutions and scholars, still making noises and blatantly fabricating lies?" Mr Cui asked.

"Why do some forces in the US use Xinjiang to launch massive smear campaigns against China? The truth is, they want to bring about a collapse and splitup of China from the inside."

He said the objective of foreign "concerns" about Xinjiang's human rights situation is to use the region to contain China.

"Their typical ploy is to first presume guilt, and then to find and even fabricate matching evidence. They don't care about truth whatsoever and only mind their political schemes," he said.