China holding 1 mn Uighurs in secret camps

United Nations panel says it has credible evidence that China detains Uighur Muslims in political camps

Vice chairperson of anti-discrimination committee says members of ethnic community treated as "enemies of the state".

Speaking in Geneva on Friday (Aug 10) during the opening session of a two-day review into China's policies, Gay McDougall, a member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, cited "credible reports" that China had turned the western region into "something resembling a massive internment camp, shrouded in secrecy", according to reports by Associated Press.

Sayragul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh Chinese national, said she crossed from China's Xinjiang region to Kazakhstan without proper papers after being forced to work at a camp where around 2,500 ethnic Kazakhs were being held for indoctrination.

Meanwhile, China's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Yu Jianhua hailed China's policies towards the minorities and said they were focussed on promoting harmony and unity.

Chinese delegation leader Yu Jianhua highlighted the economic progress he said Beijing has brought to the region.

China has not commented yet on the U.N.'s line of questioning but is expected to respond Monday.

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In her remarks, McDougall said that most of these people have never been properly charged with a crime or tried in court.

The allegations came from multiple sources, including activist group Chinese Human Rights Defenders, which said in a report last month that 21 percent of all arrests recorded in China in 2017 were in Xinjiang.

A submission by the Human Rights Watch advocacy group said there were "at least tens of thousands" in political education centres.

Accounts from the region pointed to Muslims "being treated as enemies of the state exclusively on the basis of their ethno-religious identity", Mr. McDougall said, citing reports from activists and scholars that many had disappeared and that even the most commonplace religious practices had become grounds for punishment.

Raising questions about the fate of Uighur students, who had returned to Xinjiang from overseas, Mr. McDougall said more than a hundred had disappeared, some had been detained and others had died in detention.

Fatima-Binta Dah, a panel member, referred to "arbitrary and mass detention of nearly 1 million Uighurs" and asked the Chinese delegation, "What is the level of religious freedom available now to Uighurs in China, what legal protection exists for them to practice their religion?"

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