China close detention centers in Xinjiang — CHINA UN

Sydney woman Fatimah Abdulghafur has not heard from her mother father and siblings for almost three years

Almost two dozen countries have called on China to halt its mass detention of ethnic Uighurs in the Xinjiang region, the first such joint move on the issue at the U.N. Human Rights Council, according to diplomats and a letter seen by Reuters.

An estimated one million mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are held in internment camps in the northwest region of Xinjiang - a system that Beijing defends as necessary to counter religious extremism and terrorism.

China claims that Uighurs are being educated in "vocational training centres" created to combat extremism.

The text included concern about "credible reports of arbitrary detention.as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly targeting Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang".

China was urged "to allow meaningful access to Xinjiang" for United Nations and independent global observers.

Activists had sought a formal resolution at the Council, but some analysts say the move was the only available option to spotlight the Uighur plight at the forum.

John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch, said the statement put pressure on China to stop "its horrific treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang".

Many appear to have been rounded up as punishment for expressing their faith - praying or wearing a veil - or for having overseas connections to places like Turkey. On the contrary, as a Council member, China must uphold the highest standards in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, and fully cooperate with the Council.

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"We call also on China to refrain from the arbitrary detention and restrictions on freedom of movement of Uyghurs, and other Muslim and minority communities in Xinjiang".

Last month, China's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva said he hoped Ms Bechelet would take up an invitation to visit.

No Western delegation was willing to take the lead and expose itself as a "ringleader" through a joint statement or resolution, diplomats said.

China denies abuse in the detention centers and calls them training schools aimed at combating extremism and providing employable skills. But Reuters, citing an anonymous diplomat, has reported that China is preparing a letter.

Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) on July 5 issued a statement urging the US government to impose sanctions on Chinese officials for human rights abuses committed while assuming their governance roles in Xinjiang.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily briefing on Thursday that the letter "disregarded the facts, slandered and attacked China with unwarranted accusations, flagrantly politicised human rights issues and grossly interfered in China's internal affairs". This is the Chinese regime's stated rationale for rounding up Uyghurs in the camps.

In March, the U.S. Department of State reported that China "significantly intensified" its crackdown on Muslims a year ago.

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