China tells UN rights chief to respect its sovereignty after Xinjiang comments

Pedestrians walk past a mosque in Kashgar China

Pedestrians walk past a mosque in Kashgar China

The new United Nations human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, a former Chilean president, highlighted her concerns over "deeply disturbing allegations of large-scale arbitrary detentions of Uighurs and other Muslim communities, in so-called re-education camps across Xinjiang", and called on China to allow United Nations monitors into the region.

The US could impose sanctions against Chinese officials and companies linked to alleged human rights abuses over Beijing's "worsening crackdown" on the nation's minority Muslims in the Xinjiang region. "We have a lot of tools at our disposal", she said.

They spoke of Muslims being detained without proper cause and of their religion being repressed under mass surveillance. Marco Rubio and Rep. Chris Smith, lawmakers from across the political spectrum called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to apply Magnitsky Act sanctions, which authorize the government to sanction human-rights offenders around the world. "We're not going to preview any sanctions that may or may not happen", Nauert said.

"China consistently resolutely opposes the United States using Xinjiang-related issues to interfere in China's internal affairs", Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) told a daily news briefing.

In August, a bipartisan group of USA lawmakers called for Chinese officials involved in alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang to be sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act - the 2012 law originally created to freeze the assets of certain Russian government officials and businessmen accused of human rights violations.

The country is accused of running re-education camps, where Uighurs are forced to renounce aspects of their religious beliefs and ostensibly learn about Chinese culture.

Han Chinese have also reportedly been subject to re-education, but according to HRW the primary targets are Turkic Muslims, including the 10 million Uyghurs and the Kazakh minority of about 1.6 million people.

Beijing has denied that such camps are for "political education" and says they are instead vocational training centers, part of government initiatives to bolster economic growth and social mobility in the region.

Reports had been received of "patterns of human rights violations in other regions", added Bachelet, a former Chilean president, calling for Beijing to permit access for her staff across China, saying she expected discussions to start soon.

This would be one of the first times the administration would take action against China economically for mistreating Chinese Muslims.

According to a 117-page report published over the weekend, the Chinese government conducted "mass arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment" of Uighur Turks in the region.

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