MASSIMO INTROVIGNE | BITTER VINTER

Led by Britain, 23 countries denounce the mass detention of Uyghurs. China mobilizes its usual Axis of Shame to react. Sadly, a few European countries, including Italy, did not sign the critical document.

Again, the United Nations, this time at the General Assembly, witnessed a war of documents about the horrific transformation through education camps in Xinjiang, where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) keeps three million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in horrific conditions.

The United Kingdom read on October 29 a document on behalf of a group 23 countries including: Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United States of America and of course the United Kingdom.

The document mentions “credible reports of mass detention; efforts to restrict cultural and religious practices; mass surveillance disproportionately targeting ethnic Uighurs; and other human rights violations and abuses in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.”

The 23 states “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.” The Chinese government was asked to “urgently” cease the persecution, “including by refraining from the arbitrary detention of Uighurs and members of other Muslim communities.”

The 23 asked all UN member states to apply the principle of nonrefoulement and refrain from sending religion-based Chinese refugees back to China. They also called “on the Chinese government to allow the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Special Procedures immediate unfettered, meaningful access to Xinjiang.” More generally, the document concluded, China should finally give credible answers “regarding restrictions on the right to freedom of religion or belief and the right to freely participate in cultural life” of all its citizens.

Interestingly, and sadly, European Union countries with Belt and Road ties with China such as Italy, Portugal, and Greece did not sign. (Luxembourg signed, despite being also part of Belt and Road).

China mobilized its usual “Axis of Shame” to respond and claim that all is well in Xinjiang and the CCP should indeed be praised for its “remarkable achievements in the field of human rights.” This time, it was Belarus rather than usual Russia (but the two countries are strictly connected) that leads 54 Axis of Shame countries to sign the statement. They included Pakistan, Russia, Egypt, Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Serbia, not precisely known as models of human rights.

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