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Saudi Arabia, Russia and North Korea were among 37 countries that signed a letter praising China's 'remarkable achievements in the field of human rights' over its Uighur Muslim oppression

Bill Bostock , Business Insider US
 Jul 16, 2019, 11:12 AM
Uighur men pray before a meal during the Corban Festival, also known as Eid al-Adha, in Turpan, Xinjiang, in September 2016.
Kevin Frayer/Getty
  • 37 countries - including Saudi Arabia, Syria, and North Korea - have written a letter backing China's detention of 1.5 million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
  • The pro-China letter, signed by ambassadors to the UN on Friday, said China has made "remarkable achievements in the field of human rights".
  • It's a rebuttal to a landmark statement from 22 members of the UN Human Rights Council, which called on China to stop imprisoning the minority.
  • The UN signatories had demanded China "refrain from the arbitrary detention and restrictions on freedom of movement of Uighurs."
  • Beijing claims Uighurs are a threat to national security, and has detained up to 1.5 million of them in prison-like camps where people are reportedly tortured.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.

37 countries have signed a letter backing China's treatment of Uighurs in the Xinjiang region, days after 22 UN nations demanded China stop detaining the Muslim minority.

Signatories of the letter include Saudi Arabia, Syria, North Korea, and Russia. The letter said China has made "remarkable achievements in the field of human rights," state-news outlet Xinhua reported.

"Faced with the grave challenge of terrorism and extremism, China has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism and de-radicalisation measures in Xinjiang, including setting up vocational education and training centers," the letter said.

Many of the countries who signed the letter have been accused of committing human rights abuses themselves.

On Wednesday, 22 UN Human Rights Council member states demanded China should "refrain from the arbitrary detention and restrictions on freedom of movement of Uighurs."

The Uighurs are a mostly-Muslim ethnic minority group living in Xinjiang, western China.

Beijing claims that Uighurs are a threat to national security, and has detained up to 1.5 million of them in the prison-like camps where people are reportedly physically and psychologically tortured.

Chinese authorities dramatically expanded a re-education camp for the persecuted Uighur minority in Kashgar, Xinjiang. These photos show the camp in February 2017 and August 2018.
Courtesy of Shawn Zhang; Business Insider

Muslim countries were conspicuously absent from the statement from UN Human Rights Council members last week, but many of the signatories to the letter in support China were Islamic nations.

Islamic countries have increasingly shied away from criticising China over Xinjiang, for reasons including the fear of economic vengeance from China.

Bahram Sintash, a Uighur American whose father is currently missing in Xinjiang, told Business Insider's Alexandra Ma on Thursday: "No Islamic countries have signed on the letter, even during the worst prosecution against Muslims and Islam in 1,440 years of Islamic history in Xinjiang right now."

"Uighurs overseas are very disappointed with all those Islamic countries now."

As well as Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria and North Korea, included among the 37 signatories to the pro-China letter were Pakistan, Egypt, Cuba, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Nigeria, Angola, Togo, Tajikistan, Philippines, and Belarus.

Elaine Pearson of Human Rights Watch said in a statement to CNN: "The pro-China signatories include a rogues' gallery of rights abusing countries that have zero credibility when it comes to human rights."

"Clearly the Chinese government is feeling so insecure that it needs to issue a statement praising itself."

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