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UN members are considering action against China over its treatment of Uyghur Muslims, report says

By Bethany Dawson

September 11, 2022

Activists hold a demonstration against China's policies towards Uyghur Muslims in Jakarta, Indonesia on January 4, 2021.Siswono Toyudho/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

  • The UN is facing the decision of how to respond to Chinese human rights violations of Uyghur Muslims.

  • A recent UN report outlined human rights abuses, which include arbitrary imprisonment.

  • China rejects the allegations and said action taken against the state will not work.

Multiple members of the UN Human Rights Council are considering bringing action against China over its treatment of Uyghur Muslims, Reuters reported.

Members of the UN committee are debating how to respond to UN report that said Uyghur people in China's Xinjiang region face persecution or imprisonment for acts including "rejecting or refusing radio and television" being "young and middle-aged men with a big beard," or "suddenly quit[ing] drinking and smoking."

The debate is intensifying now as a new term for the UN Human Rights Council starts on Monday, Reuters noted.

Some Western diplomats told Reuters that some democratic countries are considering their options for how they can respond to China, including a formal ruling or recommendation on China, which may involve an investigation into the State.

This would be the first time a resolution is brought on China for the first time in the 16-year history of the human rights council, Reuters noted.

The agenda for the council session — which runs from September 12 to October 4 — does not currently include any discussions about Uighurs, Reuters noted, which means that one of the 47 countries on the council will have to propose it.

And members are weighing the chance to hold China accountable against the potential effects of taking action during what is already a time of global crisis, the report said.

Tunahan Turhan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Some diplomats have criticized the possibility of not acting.

Speaking on a condition of anonymity to Reuters, one Western diplomat said: "If the majority decide it is not worth acting after the violations denounced in the [China] report, it would mean that the universalist vision of human rights is at stake and the legal order would be weakened."

Another said: "There's a cost of inaction, a cost of action and a cost of a failed attempt to act."

Zumrat Dawut told Insider her story of escaping from an internment camp for Uyghur Muslims. She said that in residential areas in Xinjiang, police monitor your at-home conversations and question any reference to Islam. People were seized if they had anything regarding their Muslim faith in their homes, she said.

She said she was taken to an internment camp where she was beaten, sterilized, and forced to deny the existence of Allah.

China has repeatedly denied any allegations of human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims.

It also rejected the UN report, saying it was "orchestrated and produced by the U.S. and some Western forces and is completely illegal and void," according to the Associated Press.

"It is a patchwork of false information that serves as a political tool for the U.S. and other Western countries to strategically use Xinjiang to contain China," Chinese ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in reaction to the report.

China has also attempted to quash the possibility of action being taken against the state.

China's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Chen Xu said, according to Reuters: "The developing world will reject all anti-China initiatives initiated by Western countries."

"Any kind of anti-China effort is doomed to failure," he said.

The council agenda includes discussions on the wars in Ukraine and Ethiopia, and human rights abuses in Myanmar.


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