BEIJING: Beijing’s treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet is a “shining example” of China’s human rights progress, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday as other countries mulled actions over its repression of Uighurs.
Rights groups believe at least one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps in the northwest Xinjiang region, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing a regime of forced labour.
After initially denying the camps existed, Beijing later defended them as vocational training centres aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.
“Places inhabited by ethnic minorities, such as Xinjiang and Tibet, have stood out as shining examples of China’s human rights progress,” Wang said at a forum on US-China relations in Beijing.
Politicians in a range of countries have condemned China’s incarceration of minorities in Xinjiang.
The US State Department has said China’s actions in Xinjiang amount to genocide, while Canada is weighing a similar declaration.
A number of top diplomats also voiced concern over the situation during the opening of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council’s main annual session Monday.
“The situation in Xinjiang is beyond the pale,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the largely virtual meeting.
“The reported abuses, which include torture, forced labour and forced sterilisation of women, are extreme and they are extensive. They are taking place on an industrial scale.”
Speaking via video-link to the council later Monday, Wang slammed such statements as “inflammatory accusations... fabricated out of ignorance and prejudice.”
“They are simply malicious, and politically driven hype and couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Wang hammered home his message that locals in Xinjiang were “living a safe and happy life”.
He insisted that the region boasts more than 24,000 mosques — one for every 530 Muslims — belying assertions that religious freedoms there are being restricted.