UNITED NATIONS • China's UN envoy has warned that criticisms by Western countries against Beijing's detention of its Uighur minority and other Muslims are not "helpful" for trade talks between Beijing and Washington, after the United States and 22 other countries at the United Nations pushed China over the issue on Tuesday.
China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in remote Xinjiang that it describes as "vocational training centres" to stamp out extremism and give people new skills.
The UN says at least one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained.
"It's hard to imagine that on the one hand you are trying to seek to have a trade deal, on the other hand you are making use of any issues, especially human rights issues, to blame the others," China's UN Ambassador Zhang Jun told reporters.
He said there was "progress" in the trade talks. But regarding the US criticism of China at the UN, he said: "I do not think it's helpful for having a good solution to the issue of trade talks."
US and Chinese negotiators are working to complete the text of an interim trade agreement for US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to sign at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Chile on Nov 16-17.
A US administration official said on Tuesday it might not be completed in time for signing in Chile, but that does not mean the accord is falling apart.
When asked if the statement criticising China could affect trade talks, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft said: "I would be standing here regardless if it was China or wherever it is, wherever there are human rights abuses we would be here in defence of those that are suffering."
Britain's UN Ambassador Karen Pierce delivered a joint statement to the 193-member UN General Assembly's human rights committee on behalf of 23 states including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the US.
"We call on the Chinese government to uphold its national laws and international obligations and commitments to respect human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, in Xinjiang and across China," Ms Pierce said.
The group of states pushed China to urgently implement recommendations by independent UN experts on the situation in Xinjiang, "including by refraining from the arbitrary detention of Uighurs and members of other Muslim communities".
They also called on countries not to send refugees or asylum-seekers back if they could face persecution, Ms Pierce said.