WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Countries must hit China with sanctions over the mass detention of ethnic Uighurs in its western Xinjiang region, hundreds of scholars said today, warning that a failure to act would signal acceptance of “psychological torture of innocent civilians.”
Beijing has in recent months faced an outcry from activists, academics and foreign governments over mass detentions and strict surveillance of the Muslim Uighur minority and other ethnic groups that live in Xinjiang.
Representatives from a group of 278 scholars in various disciplines from dozens of countries called on China at a news briefing in Washington to end its detention policies, and for sanctions directed at key Chinese leaders and security companies linked to the abuses.
Countries should expedite asylum requests from Xinjiang’s Muslim minorities, as well as “spearhead a movement for UN action aimed at investigating this mass internment system and closing the camps,” it said.
China rejects criticism of its actions in Xinjiang, saying that it protects the religion and culture of minorities, and that its security measures are needed to combat the influence of “extremist” groups that incite violence there.
The country’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said the world should ignore “gossip” about Xinjiang and trust the government.
But after initial denials about the detention camps, Chinese officials have said some people guilty of minor offences were being sent to “vocational” training centres, where they are taught work skills and legal knowledge aimed at curbing militancy.
Michael Clarke, a Xinjiang expert at Australian National University who signed the statement, told reporters that China sought international respect for its weight in global affairs.
“The international community needs to demonstrate to Beijing that it will not actually get that while it’s doing this to a significant portion of its own citizenry,” Clarke said. – Reuters