US leads condemnation of China for ‘horrific’ repression of Muslims

In this photograph taken on August 29, 2019, trainers and children from Muslim Uighur minority pray as they attend a Muay Thai training session in a boxing academy in Istanbul. In recent years, China has cracked down on the Uighur community, a mostly Muslim and Turkish-speaking minority in the northwestern Xinjiang region. (AFP / BULENT KILIC)
Updated 25 September 2019

US leads condemnation of China for ‘horrific’ repression of Muslims

  • China urged to give “immediate, unhindered, and unmonitored” access to Xinjiang for the UNHCR
  • UN says at least 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained in China crackdown

NEW YORK: The United States led more than 30 countries on Tuesday in condemning what it called China’s “horrific campaign of repression” against Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang at an event on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly that was denounced by China.
In highlighting abuses against ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in China, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said the United Nations and its member states had “a singular responsibility to speak up when survivor after survivor recounts the horrors of state repression.”
Sullivan said it was incumbent on UN member states to ensure the world body was able to closely monitor human rights abuses by China and added that it must seek “immediate, unhindered, and unmonitored” access to Xinjiang for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR).
Sullivan said Tuesday’s event was co-sponsored by Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain, and was joined by more than 30 UN states, representatives of the European Union and more than 20 nongovernmental organizations, as well as Uighur victims.
“We invite others to join the international effort to demand and compel an immediate end to China’s horrific campaign of repression,” he said. “History will judge the international community for how we respond to this attack on human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Paola Pampaloni, deputy managing director for Asia of the European External Action Service, said the EU was “alarmed” by the situation and also urged “meaningful” access to Xinjiang.
“We are concerned about ... information about mistreatment and torture,” she said. “China is always inviting us to the camps under their conditions, we are in negotiations right now for terms and conditions for free access.”
On Monday US President Donald Trump had called for an end to religious persecution at another event on the sidelines of the UN gathering and repeated his comments in a speech on Tuesday.
Trump, who has been cautious about upsetting China on human rights issues while making a major trade deal with Beijing a major priority, said religious freedom was under growing threat around the world but fell short of specifically mentioning the Uighur situation.
“Volume is coming up at a pace that we hope that the Beijing government recognizes not only US but the global concern about this situation,” David Stilwell, US Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs told reporters at a briefing.
“We will see how that plays out and how Beijing reacts and take it from there.”
A representative for the Chinese delegation to the UN General Assembly accused Washington of violating the UN Charter by criticizing China.
The United Nations says at least 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained in what China describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism and give people new skills.
Sullivan said the United States had received “credible reports of deaths, forced labor, torture, and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment” in the camps.
He said there were also many reports that the Chinese government forces detainees to renounce their ethnic identities as well as their culture and religion.
Though US officials have ramped up criticism of China’s measures in Xinjiang, it has refrained from responding with sanctions, amid on-again, off-again talks to resolve a bitter, costly trade war.
At the same time, it has criticized other countries, including some Muslim states, for not doing enough or for backing China’s approach in Xinjiang.
Rishat Abbas, the brother of Uighur physician Gulshan Abbas, who was abducted from her home in Urumchi in September 2018, told Tuesday’s event that “millions of Uighurs are becoming collateral damage to international trade policies, enabling China to continue to threaten our freedoms around the world, enable it to continue its police state.”
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has repeatedly pushed China to grant the United Nations access to investigate reports of disappearances and arbitrary detentions, particularly of Muslims in Xinjiang.
China’s envoy in Geneva said in June that he hoped Bachelet would visit China, including Xinjiang. Bachelet’s office said in June that it was discussing “full access” with China.


Belarus authorities free detainees amid protesters’ pressure

Updated 15 min 9 sec ago

Belarus authorities free detainees amid protesters’ pressure

  • Around midnight, scores of detainees were seen walking out of one of Minsk’s jails
  • The releases came hours after Belarus’ top law enforcement official apologized on state television for the indiscriminate use of force by police

MINSK, Belarus: Belarusian authorities have released dozens of people detained amid demonstrations contesting the results of the presidential election, in an attempt to assuage public anger against a brutal crackdown on peaceful protests.
Around midnight, scores of detainees were seen walking out of one of Minsk’s jails. In the early morning, volunteers also saw at least 119 detainees being released in the сity of Zhodino just northeast of the Belarusian capital. Ambulances arrived to carry those who apparently were unable to walk on their own.
The releases came hours after Belarus’ top law enforcement official apologized on state television for the indiscriminate use of force by police. “I take responsibility for what they say was violence against those people, who happened to be nearby and failed to back off quickly enough,” Interior Minister Yuri Karayev said late Thursday.
The apologies and the release of detainees follow five days of massive protests, in which crowds of demonstrators swarmed the streets to contest the vote results and demand an end to the 26-year rule of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. On Thursday, thousands of workers rallied outside industrial plants to denounce the police crackdown and push for a recount of Sunday’s vote.
Nearly 7,000 people have been detained and hundreds injured in the clampdown on demonstrators protesting the official results that said Lukashenko won 80% of the vote and his top opposition challenger only 10%. Police have broken up protests with stun grenades, tear gas, rubber bullets and severe beatings.
On Thursday, hundreds of women formed long “lines of solidarity” in several areas of the capital, Minsk. Many were dressed in white and carried flowers and portraits of detained loved ones.
The human chains grew throughout the day, filling Minsk’s main central squares and avenues and spreading to numerous other cities as motorists honked in support. In Minsk and several other cities, thousands of factory workers also rallied against the police violence, raising the prospect of strikes in a new challenge to the government. Protesters were shouting “Go away!” to demand Lukashenko’s resignation.
Amid growing public dismay, dozens of military and police veterans posted videos in which they dumped their uniforms and insignia in the trash. Several popular anchors at Belarus’ state TV stations have quit.
The demonstrations have spread even though the protest lacks leaders. The top opposition challenger in the vote, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, suddenly emerged Tuesday in neighboring Lithuania and called on her supporters to stop protests in a video that her associates said was recorded under pressure from law enforcement officials before she left. The 37-year-old former teacher had joined the race to replace her husband, an opposition blogger, who has been jailed since May.
The massive protests against election results and police brutality have been an unprecedented challenge to Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994 and earned the nickname of “Europe’s last dictator” for his relentless crackdown on dissent. The scope and ferocity of the police clampdown were remarkable even for Lukashenko’s iron-fisted rule, triggering widespread anger.
After dismissing protesters as mostly ex-convicts and unemployed, the authoritarian leader kept silent Thursday as the demonstrations spread quickly. Some reports said he was preparing an address to the nation.
A protester died Monday in Minsk when, according to the Interior Ministry, an explosive device he tried to throw at police blew up in his hand. Media reports challenged the ministry’s claim, alleging that he was killed by police. The place where he died quickly turned into a pilgrimage site, with hundreds of people, including European ambassadors, laying flowers there.
The authorities said that a detainee died in the southeastern city of Gomel, but the circumstances of his death weren’t immediately clear.
The brutal suppression of protests drew harsh criticism in the West.
European Union foreign ministers are set to meet Friday to discuss a response, and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the 27-nation bloc would “increase the pressure” on Belarus.