US ‘deeply disturbed’ by reports of systematic rape in China’s Uighur camps

The US on Wednesday said that it is “deeply disturbed” by news reports of systemic rape and other sexual abuses of women in camps in China’s Xinjiang region where Uighur Muslims are kept.

The remarks by US followed a report by BBC on Wednesday that said rape, sexual abuse and torture was rampant in Xinjiang camps which China claims are vocational training centres.

The report was based on testimonies of former detainees and a guard who revealed that there was “an organised system of mass rape, sexual abuse and torture” in these camps.

“We are deeply disturbed by reports, including first-hand testimony, of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang,” said a US state department spokesperson.

“These atrocities shock the conscience and must be met with serious consequences,” said the spokesperson while calling for immediate and independent investigations by international observers into the rape allegations.

In an interview with MSNBC, US’s secretary of state, Antony J Blinken, while replying to a query about the challenge from China, said: “there’s no doubt that China poses the most significant challenge to us of any other country, but it’s a complicated one … we have to be able to approach China from a position of strength, not weakness.”

“And that strength, I think, comes from having strong alliances, something China does not have; actually engaging in the world and showing up in these international institutions, because when we pull back, China fills in and then they’re the ones writing the rules and setting the norms of these institutions; standing up for our values when China is challenging them, including in Xinjiang against the Uyghurs or democracy in Hong Kong,” Mr Blinken said.

China, however, dismissed the allegations and said the “BBC report on alleged abuses of women’s rights in Xinjiang has no factual basis at all.” It said that this is not the first time that BBC has made “false reports” on Xinjiang even though each time Beijing has refuted these claims.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, stressed that they have published “eight Xinjiang-related white papers, and the government of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has held more than 20 press conferences, showing with detailed figures and examples that people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang live in peace and contentment, unity and harmony and that all their legal rights are effectively guaranteed.”

He highlighted that in recent years, “more than 1,200 diplomats, journalists and representatives of religious groups from more than100 countries have visited Xinjiang … they witnessed with their own eyes the unity, harmony, joy and peace of the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang.”

Australia foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, also demanded an independent investigation.

She said that Australia has been consistent in raising significant concerns with the human rights abuses in Xinjiang. “These latest reports of systematic torture and abuse of women are deeply disturbing and raise serious questions regarding the treatment of Uighurs and other religious and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang,” she said.

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