Britain challenges China at UN over access to Xinjiang

The United Nations must be given "urgent and unfettered" access to Xinjiang to investigate reports of abuses in the Chinese region, the United Kingdom said Monday, upon its return to the UN Human Rights Council as a voting member.

During an address to the council in Geneva, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned the rights record of fellow council members China and Russia, and also raised concerns about Myanmar and Belarus.

"We see almost daily reports now that shine a new light on China's systematic human rights violations perpetrated against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang," Raab said during the meeting.

"The situation in Xinjiang is beyond the pale. The reported abuses -- which include torture, forced labor and forced sterilization of women -- are extreme and they are extensive," Raab added.

China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in Xinjiang that Beijing describes as "vocational training centers" to stamp out extremism and give people new skills. China's critics have called them concentration camps.

Earlier on Monday, China said Xinjiang and Tibet were "important examples of human rights progress."

"China is a country that has always protected and promoted the development of human rights," Senior Diplomat Wang Yi said in a speech. "Over the past 60 years, Xinjiang's economic aggregate has increased by more than 200 times, the per capita GDP has increased by nearly 40 times, and the average life expectancy has increased from 30 to 72 years," Wang added.

The United Nations has said at least 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslims have been detained in Xinjiang.

While the Chinese government has repeatedly said that Muslim minorities in Xinjiang are enjoying a high quality of life, attempts by journalists to report independently on the region have often been hamstrung by authorities.

The Chinese government is facing growing pressure to address allegations of human rights abuses towards Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

On January 19, the US announced it had determined that the Chinese government was committing genocide in Xinjiang, which then-Secretary of State Pompeo described as "the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state."

After US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was confirmed one week later, he said that the Biden administration stood by the genocide finding.

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