In a long-awaited report on Xinjiang, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) raised concerns about potential crimes against humanity committed against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the far-western region.
"Such severe and systematic violations of human rights cannot be justified on the basis of counter-terrorism. In view of the gravity of the OHCHR assessment, we are concerned that China has so far refused to discuss its findings," the statement said.
On Monday, 50 nations endorsed a declaration that was read aloud during a UN discussion and denounced the "severe and systematic" human rights abuses occurring in China's Xinjiang province.
The statement, read out by Canada during a discussion of the UN General Assembly Third Committee, which deals with human rights, said, "We are gravely concerned about the human rights situation in the People's Republic of China, especially the ongoing human rights violations of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang."
The United States, Britain, Japan, France, Australia, Israel, Turkey, Guatemala, and even Somalia are among the 50 supporters. Beijing was encouraged to "implement the recommendations of the OHCHR assessment" which include "taking prompt steps to release all individuals arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in Xinjiang, and to urgently clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing family members and facilitate safe contact and reunion".
Beijing denies the accusations and insists that it is battling terrorism and promoting regional development. Early in October, a majority of the UN Human Rights Council's 47 members prevented debate on the OHCHR report from starting. As a result, China was able to avoid participating.
International non-governmental organization (NGO) Human Rights Watch demanded on Monday that the UN Human Rights Council "try again" to convene the discussion "as soon as possible."
"Clearly, diplomatic momentum in favor of holding Beijing accountable for its human rights violations is growing," the NGO's UN director, Louis Charbonneau said. "Human Rights Watch is urging council members to attempt again at the earliest possible date to discuss and consider options for establishing a UN-backed mechanism to investigate further the Chinese government's responsibility for human rights violations," he added.
The Chinese government has long threatened and intimidated UN member nations with economic reprisals if they dared criticize its appalling record on human rights. They are failing, as seen by the joint statement from today. China's UN mission this week demanded in a letter to UN delegations in New York that they abstain from a UN gathering that had been organized by 23 nations to address the situation in Xinjiang and hear from Uyghur rights activists.