In a historic move, the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and other countries are calling for a debate at the United Nations Human Rights Council on allegations of China’s persecution and exploitation of Uyghurs and other Muslim-majority groups in China’s Uyghur Region.
As a permanent member of the Security Council, China has never before been subjected to the scrutiny of the U.N. rights body in its 16-year history. A majority vote is needed for the debate to go ahead.
Rights report prompts calls for debate
The call for a debate comes after the U.N. released a report last month stating that “serious human rights violations have been committed” in the Uyghur Region. The report suggested that China’s treatment of Uyghurs may even amount to crimes against humanity.
So far, the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Norway have backed the so-called “draft decision” calling for a debate at the next council session in February.
British ambassador Simon Manley told the rights body on Monday, “This council must not, cannot, stay silent,” according to Reuters.
China has categorically denied any abuse and has sent delegates to Geneva to discuss the claims in the U.N. report. China could try to dismiss the call with a no action motion.
Join the movement led by Uyghur activists
Uyghur activists have been protesting outside the U.N. offices in Geneva over the last week, calling for urgent action. Gulbahar Haitiwaji, a Uyghur survivor who spent three years in internment camps, is quoted by Reuters:
My ask is clear to the international community – I ask you to intervene. I implore you to save us from this tyranny.
The Freedom United community is urging the Chinese government to immediately release all Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Hui, and others forced to work in factories and detention camps in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and beyond, and to allow them to return home.