Wednesday, 6 November 2019

NZ Foreign Affairs Officials Speak Up

Government Expresses Concern Over Chinese Uighur Muslims

China Acting Like a Rogue State

Jason Walls
Jason Walls is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald

The foreign affairs branch of the New Zealand Government says it continues to share its concerns about the "human rights situation" in China's Xinjiang province.  This comes after New Zealand and 23 other countries last week co-signed a statement to the head of the United Nations Human Rights body, condemning the treatment of the Uighur Muslims in China.  The statement, delivered by the UK's Permanent Representative to the UN Karen Pierce, was co-signed by the likes of Japan, Germany, the US and the UK.

Pierce said the 24 countries wanted to directly raise the concerns about reports of mass detention, efforts to restrict cultural and religious practices, mass surveillance and other human rights violations and abuses in the Xinjiang Uighur region.

"We call on the Chinese government to uphold its national laws and international obligations and commitments to respect human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, in Xinjiang and across China."  New Zealand was part of a similar statement to the UN in July.

In a brief statement, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said New Zealand had joined the statement because: "we continue to share concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang".  He said the statement "speaks for itself".

The statement called on the Chinese Government to allow the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Special Procedures immediate unfettered, meaningful access to Xinjiang.

The statement comes as China faces more pressure over the treatment of the Uighur Muslims.  Chinese lawmakers describe the camps it has set up for the Uighur Muslims as "vocational training centres".  But the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has estimated that "from tens of thousands to upwards of a million Uighurs" may be detained in the camps.  Independent experts have described it as a "massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy" and a "no-rights zone".

Chinese officials have rejected these claims, saying they come from "anti-China forces".  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she raised the issue of the detention of Uighur Muslims when she visited China earlier this year.  "I've raised the issue of the Uighur before and I expect I will do so again," she said before her April trip to Beijing. "My expectation is that we will be consistent."

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