VOA's U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.
Leading international human rights organizations are asking U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to publicly condemn China for detaining more than a million Muslims.
A joint letter signed by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Uyghur Conference also urged the U.N. chief to call for the immediate closing of all detention camps in Xinjiang province.
The groups said a public condemnation from Guterres would be an important step toward addressing "one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time.''
Last week, Guterres launched a new initiative to protect religious sites around the world. It aims to provide concrete recommendations to help countries ensure that houses of worship and their congregations are safe, and that the values of compassion and tolerance are fostered globally.
He again refrained from criticizing Beijing last week when asked by VOA if he had a specific message for China on the detention and mistreatment of Uighur Muslims.
"My specific message to all countries in the world is that religious freedom needs to be respected in all circumstances," he said, "and that, in the context of religious freedom being fully respected, all religious sites must be protected."