Saudi Arabia, Russia among 37 states back China’s Xinjiang policy
UNITED NATIONS, July 13: Saudi Arabia, Russia and 35 other states have written to the United Nations supporting China's policies in its western region of Xinjiang, according to a copy of the letter seen by Reuters on Friday, in contrast to strong Western criticism.
China has been accused of detaining a million Muslims and persecuting ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang, and 22 ambassadors signed a letter to the UN Human Rights Council this week criticising its policies.
But the letter supporting China commended what it called China's remarkable achievements in the field of human rights.
"Faced with the grave challenge of terrorism and extremism, China has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism and deradicalization measures in Xinjiang, including setting up vocational education and training centres," the letter said.
The letter said security had returned to Xinjiang and the fundamental human rights of people of all ethnic groups there had been safeguarded. It added there had been no terrorist attack there for three years and people enjoyed a stronger sense of happiness, fulfilment and security.
As well as Saudi Arabia and Russia, the letter was signed by ambassadors from many African countries, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Belarus, Myanmar, the Philippines, Syria, Pakistan, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Beijing has denied any human rights violations in the region and Chinese Ambassador Xu Chen, speaking at the close of the Council's three-week session on Friday, said China highly appreciated the support it had received from the signatories.
The Western diplomats had made the same request. Beijing on Thursday dismissed the Western letter as "slander." The tit-for-tat open letters is rare at the UN's top rights body, where states typically try to hammer out formal resolutions during closed-door negotiations.
After initially denying their existence, Beijing has gone on a public relations blitz in a bid to counter the global outcry against what it calls "vocational education centres" in Xinjiang.
Since last October, the local government has also organised tours of the camps for diplomats and media outlets. UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has requested a fact-finding mission to Xinjiang.
Beijing has said she is welcome, but the rights office has stressed that a visit will be only possible on certain conditions -- including unfettered access to key sites. -REUTERS