Estonia among 50 UN members to condemn human rights violations in Xinjiang

Masked protesters protesting the violation of Uyghurs' human rights in front of the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Masked protesters protesting the violation of Uyghurs' human rights in front of the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. Source: Tatan Syuflana/AP Photo/Scanpix

Estonia was among 50 UN member state signatories of a joint statement issued Monday condemning the human rights situation in Xinjiang, China. Among the signatories were Western states, Turkey, Israel as well as Belize, Eswatini and Somalia.

Read by Canadian UN Ambassador Bob Rae at a meeting of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Third Committee in New York on Monday, the signatories expressed grave concern about the human rights situation in the People's Republic of China, particularly the ongoing human rights violations of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

The human rights violations were corroborated by the recently released "UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Assessment of human rights concerns in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China."

According to the assessment, "the scale of the arbitrary and discriminatory detention of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang 'may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.'"

The joint statement stresses that the assessment also included evidence of large-scale arbitrary detention and the systematic use of invasive surveillance on the basis of religion and ethnicity, reports of the destruction of mosques, shrines and cemeteries, torture, ill-treatment and sexual and gender-based violence, including forced abortion and sterilization, as well as enforced disappearances, family separations as well as forced labor.

"Such severe and systematic violations of human rights cannot be justified on the basis of counterterrorism," the statement read.

To date, China has refused to discuss the findings of the OHCHR assessment, and the signatories of the joint statement urged the Chinese government to uphold its international human rights obligations and fully implement the recommendations included in the assessment, including releasing all individuals arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in Xinjiang, clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing family members as well as facilitate safe contact and reunion.

The statement concludes by emphasizing that addressing human rights violations, meaningful dialogue and cooperation as partners are foundational to creating more inclusive societies "where all can fully enjoy their human rights."

Among the 50 signatories of Monday's statement were Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and Sweden, as well as the U.S., U.K., Ukraine, Germany, France, Poland, Turkey, Eswatini, Somalia and Belize.

China has previously denounced the report in question as a political tool of the West and a "patchwork of disinformation."

The criticism in the joint statement is largely symbolic, however, after the previous attempt to force a debate on the issue was voted down at the UN Human Rights Council, Deutsche Welle said.

Finnish public broadcaster Yle (link in Finnish) attributed the disruption of this discussion last month to China.

Click here (link to PDF) to read the joint statement in full.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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