UK confirms reports of Chinese mass internment camps for Uighur Muslims

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Originally published by The Guardian on October 31, 2018

British diplomats who visited Xinjiang have confirmed that reports of mass internment camps for Uighur Muslims were “broadly true”, the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has told parliament.

Beijing faces mounting international criticism over its policies in Xinjiang, a far-western territory of China where researchers believe an estimated 1 million members of Muslim minorities have been detained in a network of camps.

Hunt told parliament on Tuesday that diplomats had visited Xinjiang in August and “concur that those reports are broadly accurate”.

His comment puts pressure on Beijing before a UN human rights panel that will on 6 November review China’s human rights record. The UK, the US, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Norway, Germany and Belgium have asked about Xinjiang in questions submitted for China ahead of the process known as the universal periodic review (UPR).

Hunt said he had raised the issue with his Chinese counterpart, the foreign minister, Wang Yi, on a trip in July. “We continue to be extremely concerned about what is happening,” he said.

“A senior cabinet member raising the issue in parliament sends a message to China that the UK is serious about what’s happening in Xinjiang and China will likely hear more at the UPR,” said Frances Eve, a researcher at Chinese Human Rights Defenders .

Ahead of the panel, China has ramped up its defence of the camps, where ex-detainees have said they were abused, forced to learn Mandarin, as well as undergo political indoctrination.

After denying their existence, China has begun acknowledging them but described the camps as vocational training centres that embody the “humane management and care” of a campaign in the name of counter-terrorism.

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