UN group voices Uighur abuse concerns

A session of the Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva. Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi

Observers are trying to get access to China’s Xinjiang province, as the country faces international backlash for alleged human rights violations in the region. Swiss public television RTS was recently there. 

This content was published on April 15, 2021 minutes

Independent experts, mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, recently voicedExternal link their concerns following reports of detention and forced labour of the Muslim Uighur minority in the Xinjiang region of China. 

“We are deeply concerned by these allegations which, if proven, would constitute grave human rights abuses,” statedExternal link the Working Group on Business and Human Rights. 

Last month, Swiss public television RTS, sent a correspondent to the regionExternal link. The resulting footage (available below) depicts what appears to be a technology firm. It is an alleged re-education facilityExternal link in which Uighur abuses may be conducted. Writings on the walls read: “All ethnicities must be united as firmly as the seeds of a pomegranate”. 

UN independent experts suspect that the technology sector is a potential channel for mistreatment of the Uighur ethnic minority. 

“Uighur workers have allegedly been forcibly employed in low-skilled, labour-intensive industries, such as agribusiness, textile and garment, automotive and technological sectors,” one expert declaredExternal link

Last year, China admittedExternal link having operated “vocational training” centres between 2014 and 2019 in the Xinjiang region. But their narrative differs from that of their accusers. The Chinese government refutes allegations of detention and forced labour. It has defended the program as having the aim of lifting Uighurs out of poverty and fighting terrorism. 

“They are all graduates now. They have a job and a better life,” a public official in the city of Kashgar told RTS.  

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, saidExternal link last month that “serious negotiations” were underway to obtain unfettered access to Xinjiang to follow up on persecution reports.

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