China ‘will be held to account’ for Xinjiang abuses, US State Secretary says


The new Biden administration will hold China to account for the “atrocities” committed against the Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), as other western nations also criticised Beijing for its treatment of the Uyghur people.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the statement via video link on Wednesday at the 46th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.

Blinken upbraided China for “attempts to subvert the values upon which the United Nations is founded,” including the rights to fundamental freedoms that states are “obliged to protect.”

“Those who hide under the mantle of promoting economic development while seeking to undermine human rights will be held to account, including for their own human rights violations,” he said.

“We will speak out for universal values when atrocities are committed in Xinjiang or when fundamental freedoms are undermined in Hong Kong,” Blinken added.

Hong Kong joined Xinjiang and Tibet last year as major rights trouble spots in China after Beijing imposed a draconian security law that led to widespread arrests of democratic politicians.

In Washington, meanwhile, the State Department affirmed an earlier judgement that mass internment camps, forced sterilizations and other harsh measures imposed on Uyghurs and other Muslims in the XUAR meet the definitions of “genocide” and “crimes against humanity.”

Blinken’s speech declared the intention of the new Biden administration to re-join the UNHRC after his predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew from the body in 2018.

China narrowly won a seat on the UNHRC in October, prompting New York-based Human Rights Watch to call the vote “embarrassing” for a country that has spent billions to burnish its image and used its growing power to stifle criticism of its treatment of ethnic Uyghurs.

The Asian power secured only 139 votes during a secret ballot at the 75th UN General Assembly in Geneva from among 193 member-nations, placing fourth out of five countries vying for four seats in the Asia-Pacific region, and beating out only Saudi Arabia, which has faced wide condemnation over its rights record.

“The United States is fully committed to the universal protection and promotion of human rights,” Blinken told the session, which runs from Feb. 22 to March 23.

France also chimed in on China at the UNHRC Wednesday, with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian slamming what he termed “institutionalized repression” of the Uyghurs.

He cited witness testimonies and documents as evidence of “unjustifiable practices towards Uyghurs, and a system of large-scale surveillance and institutionalized repression.”

Authorities in the XUAR are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps since early 2017 as part of a “counter-terrorism” campaign.

Female former detainees have said they were subjected to systemic rape in the camps and injected with sterilization drugs or had intrauterine devices (IUDs) forcibly inserted to end their fertility. (Source: RFA)