The U.N.’s new human right chief said his agency has documented China’s arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and the separation of children from their families in comments during a global update on human rights on Wednesday in Geneva.
Volker Türk, who took over last September, said his office has opened up channels of communication with various actors to follow up on human rights issues in China, including the protection of minorities such as Uyghurs, Tibetans and other groups.
“In the Xinjiang region, my office has documented grave concerns, notably large-scale arbitrary detentions and ongoing family separations and has made important recommendations that require concrete follow-up,” he said.
Türk also said his office has concerns about severe restrictions of civic space, including the arbitrary detention of human rights defenders and lawyers and the impact of the National Security Law in Hong Kong.
The United Nations and Western governments have remained steadfast in their condemnation of China over its harsh policies affecting Uyghurs, Tibetans and Hongkongers, though Beijing has angrily denied accusations of abuses and continued maintaining an iron grip on them.
Türk’s comments come nearly three weeks after U.N. Commission on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, or CESCR, grilled 40 Chinese delegates about the human rights situations in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang, the far-western autonomous region in China where more than 11 million of the predominantly Muslim Uyghur people live.
When asked for explanations about reports of the destruction of Uyghur cultural and religious sites and the mass incarceration of Uyghurs in “re-education” camps, the Chinese delegates responded with denials and assurances that rights were protected.