There are credible reports that millions of Uygurs are being held by China in ‘counter-extremism centres’, Gay McDougall, a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, disclosed at a two-day UN meeting in China.
She expressed her concerns over reports that Beijing had “turned the Uygur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp”. China did not respond immediately and later stated that it would answer the concerns on Monday during the continuation of the session in Geneva.
The Uygurs are known to be a Muslim ethnic minority making up 45% of the population in China’s Xinjiang province. The province has been officially designated as an autonomous region.
There are been consistent reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that more and more Uygurs and other Muslim minorities are being detained in Xinjiang and being forced to swear loyalty to China’s President, Xi Jinping.
The World Uygur Congress said in its report that detainees are held indefinitely without charge, and forced to shout Communist Party slogans. It said they are poorly fed, and reports of torture are widespread. The inmates are also detained without legal representation.
However, China denies the reports. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that, “everyone can see that people of all ethnicities in Xinjiang live and work in peace and contentment and enjoy peaceful and progressing lives”.
Earlier, the plan to demolish a newly-built mosque in the country’s North West was delayed by Chinese officials after scores of ethnic Hui Muslims, the second largest Muslim group after Uygurs of Xinjiang, organised sit-in protests, a media report stated.
The protesters assembled in the square outside the Weizhou Grand Mosque from noon until late last night against the demolition plans of the government.