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article imageChina defends Xinjiang crackdown after UN chief raises issue

By AFP     Apr 30, 2019 in World

China Tuesday rejected "any interference" in its internal affairs after UN chief Antonio Guterres raised the plight of ethnic Uighurs in the restive Xinjiang region during a visit to Beijing.

Guterres had been under pressure from rights groups to publicly confront Beijing over the mass detention of Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking minorities in Xinjiang during his trip.

The was no public denunciation, but UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres raised the issue during talks with Chinese leaders when he attended a summit Friday and Saturday on Beijing's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

The UN chief delivered a three-point message that stressed human rights must be upheld in the fight against extremism, while recognising China's sovereignty and condemning terrorism.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China was willing to discuss human rights issues with all parties on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

"At the same time, we firmly oppose any interference in China's internal affairs under the pretext of human rights issues," Geng said at a regular press briefing.

"Xinjiang affairs belong to China's internal affairs. Terrorism and extremism are wanton violations of basic human rights," he said.

Upwards of one million Uighurs and other minorities are being held in internment camps in Xinjiang, according to estimates cited by a UN panel.

China says the camps are "vocational training centres" to steer people away from extremism and reintegrate them, in a region plagued by violence blamed on Uighur separatists or Islamists.

"The preventive anti-terrorism and anti-extremism measures taken by China in Xinjiang are carried out in accordance with the law, and human rights are also respected and protected," Geng said.

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