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China’s Human Rights Record in Xinjiang under International Scrutiny

In November 2018, China’s human rights record was scrutinised by the United Nations Human Rights Council. In a process known as a ‘universal periodic review’ (UPR), the nation in question must demonstrate its ability to follow previous United Nations (UN) recommendations and answer questions posed by other states, NGOs, and other institutions. On 6 November, China was called to address human rights issues including its treatment of ethnic minorities, specifically Uyghurs in Xinjiang; its crackdown on lawyers and activists; as well as issues regarding civil, religious, and press freedoms in the country. Unsurprisingly, China has responded by defending its human rights record, deeming the UN assessment to be ‘politically driven’ and ‘fraught with biases’. China’s worsening human rights record has increasingly drawn international scrutiny. The UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, has requested direct access to Xinjiang amid growing concerns over China’s treatment of the Uyghur minority. In addition, spearheaded by Canada, 15 western ambassadors have issued a letter requesting Xinjiang’s Communist Party leader to meet with them and provide an explanation of the alleged human rights abuses. Such actions have been rebuffed by Beijing, with the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying claiming that the ambassadors have exceeded their diplomatic capacities. While this heated exchange was still in the making, internationally renowned photographer Lu Guang went missing while visiting Xinjiang. He has not been heard from since. Moreover, in early December reports from international media began detailing the emergence of a forced labour regime in factories attached to re-education camps in Xinjiang, prompting new criticisms. TS

(Sources: BBC; The Guardian 1; The Guardian 2; The Independent 1; The Independent 2; Radio Free Asia 1; SBS News; South China Morning Post; The New York Times; United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner)

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