Uighurs and their supporters protest in front of the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations in New York, March 15, 2018. Members of the Uighur Muslim ethnic group held demonstrations in cities around the world on that day to protest a sweep
Uighurs and their supporters protest in front of the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations in New York, March 15, 2018. Members of the Uighur Muslim ethnic group held demonstrations in cities around the world on that day to protest a sweep

GENEVA - A United Nations watchdog committee accuses China of holding possibly more than one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in political “re-education” camps in its Western Xinjiang region.  

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has published its findings on China and other countries examined during its latest session between August 6 and 30.

The 18 independent experts forming the committee say they have received numerous credible reports of widespread torture and ill-treatment in China.  

Committee member Nicolas Marugan said those subjected to cruel treatment include Uighurs, Tibetans, and other ethnic minorities as well as political protesters and human rights defenders.

“The committee has been alarmed by numerous reports of detention of large numbers of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities held incommunicado and often for long periods without being charged or tried under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism.  The Committee regrets that there is no official data on how many people are in long-term detention,” Marugan said.

The committee reports many people are forced to spend varying periods of time in the re-education camps.  It says even non-threatening expressions of Muslim ethno-religious culture like daily greetings are enough to get people locked up.  The committee estimates the number of people detained in these secret camps runs from “tens of thousands to upwards of a million.”

The Committee also raises concerns about reports of mass surveillance, disproportionately targeting ethnic Uighurs, and of Uighurs abroad who have been returned to China against their will.

China denies these accusations, saying they have no basis in fact.  It contends Uighurs enjoy full rights, though it acknowledges some religious extremists are being held for so-called re-education.