China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has warned the international community against meddling in its internal affairs in the name of human rights after Britain on Monday expressed concerns over Hong Kong’s national security law and called for an international fact-finding mission to Xinjiang.
In a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Wang accused other countries of applying a “double standard” to make “slanderous attacks” against Beijing.
“China supports more exchange and cooperation on human rights in the principle of mutual respect,” the minister said. “We oppose using double standards to make slanderous attacks on other countries.”
“Human rights are not a monopoly for a small number of countries, still less should they be used as a tool to pressure other countries and to meddle with their internal affairs,” he said.
Wang’s speech followed concerns raised by British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab over the “deteriorating human rights situation” in China in his address to the UNHRC earlier on Monday.
“In Hong Kong, the rights of the people are being systematically violated. The National Security Law is a clear breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and is having a chilling effect on personal freedoms,” Raab said.
Wang reiterated assertions that the national security law has restored order to Hong Kong and rebuffed Raab’s concerns over the erosion of the city’s promised freedoms.
“The National Security Law legislation has plugged long-existing loopholes in Hong Kong and facilitated a major turnaround from turbulence to law and order,” he said, adding that it “protects the rights and freedoms the residents of Hong Kong enjoy under the Basic Law.” He said there is “extensive public support for national security legislation.”
“We have every confidence in the future of Hong Kong,” the Chinese foreign minister said.
‘Door to Xinjiang always open’
Wang hit back against calls by Raab for “urgent and unfettered access” to Xinjiang to investigate reports of human rights abuses “of an industrial scale.”
Raab had called for a visit by the UN High Commissioner to investigate “China’s systematic human rights violations perpetrated against Uighur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang.”
“The situation in Xinjiang is beyond the pale,” the minister said. “The reported abuses… are extreme and they are extensive… It must be our collective duty to ensure that this does not go unanswered.”
Raab also raised concerns over China’s behaviour in Tibet where “the situation remains deeply concerning, with access still heavily restricted.”
Wang sought to deny any Uighur mistreatment, reiterating claims that China’s actions were necessary to maintain social stability. “Xinjiang-related issues are in essence about countering violent terrorism and separatism.”
“There has never been so-called genocide, forced labour, or religious oppression in Xinjiang,” the Chinese foreign minister said. “Such inflammatory accusations are fabricated out of ignorance and prejudice, they are simply malicious and politically-driven hype and couldn’t be further from the truth.”
He said China welcomed any visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to the region. “The door to Xinjiang is always open.”
The 46th UNHRC session, which began on Monday, will last until March 23.
Human rights in China
Beijing faces allegations of serious human rights abuses, including mass internment, forced labour and sterilisation, torture and sexual abuse of its Uighur population. The allegations come from various rights groups, think tanks, and media reports on first-person accounts from former detainees.
Both the US and Canada have labelled China’s mistreatment of the ethnic minority group as “genocide.”
Freedom of speech and assembly are strictly constrained in mainland China while online access and information are heavily censored. Political dissidents, human rights activists, lawyers and journalists risk being detained by its opaque legal system, which has a conviction rate of over 99 per cent.