China must immediately release being held in alleged political re-education camps on the “pretext of countering terrorism”, a committee of UN human rights experts have said.
Up to one million Uighurs, a largely Muslim minority, may be held involuntarily in extra-legal detention in China’s far western Xinjiang province, according to estimates cited by the committee.
A former inmate in one of the interment camps said Muslims were forced to eat pork and drink alcohol, acts which are forbidden by their religion.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination issued its findings after a two-day review of China’s record, the first since 2009, earlier this month.
China’s foreign ministry rejected the allegations at the time, and said anti-China forces were behind the criticism of Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang.
It has never officially confirmed the existence of detention centres there.
China has said Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tensions between the Uighur minority and the ethnic Han Chinese majority.
The panel criticised China’s “broad definition of terrorism and vague references to extremism and unclear definition of separatism in Chinese legislation”.
It said the definition could be used against those peacefully exercising their rights and facilitates “criminal profiling” of ethnic and religious minorities, including Uighurs, Buddhist Tibetans and Mongolians.
In its conclusions, the panel said it was alarmed by “numerous reports of detention of large numbers of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities held incommunicado and often for long periods, without being charged or tried, under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism”.
Chinese officials did not immediately comment on the panel’s criticism.
The independent experts said they regretted that there was no official data on people detained “for even non-threatening expressions of Muslim ethno-religious culture like daily greetings”. Read more