The United States, Britain and Germany called Wednesday on China to end its repression of the Uyghur minority, speaking out at a video conference that infuriated Beijing.
Rights groups say up to one million Uyghurs and people from other mostly Muslim groups are detained in internment camps in the northwest Xinjiang region of China.
“In Xinjiang, people are being tortured. Women are being forcibly sterilized,” US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said during the conference, which was sponsored by the US, Britain and Germany along with Human Rights Watch and featured testimony from Uyghur people.
Many of them and people of other religious minorities “are being forced to work until they drop, manufacturing clothes and goods at the behest of the state,” said Thomas-Greenfield.
She repeated the term genocide for the way China treats these minorities, using a word first employed by the US State Department when Donald Trump was president.
“We will keep standing up and speaking out until China’s government stops its crimes against humanity and the genocide of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang,” the US ambassador said.
Her British counterpart Barbara Woodward said, “there is evidence of mass arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and incidences of torture. There are further reports of widespread forced labor and sterilization.”
“We are here today to face these facts. And to ask China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office,” said Woodward.
“We appeal on China to respect the universal declaration of human rights and we asked China to tear down the detention camps,” German ambassador Christoph Heusgen added.
“If you have nothing to hide, why don’t you finally grant unimpeded access to the high commissioner for human rights?,” he asked of China.
China had demanded the scrapping of the videoconference on the Uyghurs, saying it was “based on sheer lies and political bias.”
In a statement the Chinese delegation insisted that “the current situation in Xinjiang is at its best in history.”
China flatly denies any abuses in the region, describing detention centers there as work camps intended to boost incomes and deter extremism in a region made restive by central control.