China steps up offensive at UN to tell Xinjiang ‘truth’
By Nina Larson
GENEVA – China sent a small army of delegates from Xinjiang to the UN in Geneva Thursday (22), where they spent two hours hammering home the “truth” about the rights situation in the region.
Beijing has made no secret of its displeasure with a United Nations report published last month, which warned of possible crimes against humanity in the far-western Xinjiang region.
“The assessment is based on a presumption of guilt, includes mostly disinformation and lies,” Xu Guixiang, head of the Xinjiang government’s information office, told reporters.
“Against the fallacies of the assessment, we want to make clear the truth and facts.”
He was sitting at a podium flanked by four colleagues, with around two dozen other Chinese delegates crammed into a small briefing room, alongside a few international journalists.
The event had been announced as a press conference, but the five speakers, including the head of Xinjiang’s public security department, spent nearly two hours listing the mistakes they had found in the 49-page report before finally taking three questions.
They also provided a thick booklet entitled ‘Fight against Terrorism and Extremism in Xinjiang: Truth and Facts’.
The report highlights “credible” allegations of widespread torture, arbitrary detention, and violations of religious and reproductive rights.
It brought UN endorsement to long-running allegations by campaigners and others, who accuse Beijing of a litany of abuses in Xinjiang, including detaining more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslims, and forcibly sterilising women.
Beijing has vehemently rejected such charges, insisting it is running vocational training centres in the region to counter extremism.
During Thursday’s conference, the speakers went through the report, rejecting paragraph after paragraph as “nothing but a patchwork of falsehoods”.
“There is no ethnic discrimination in Xinjiang,” Xu insisted.
Muhterem Sherip, vice president of Xinjiang Islamic Association, maintained that the policies “protect the people of all ethnic groups from the scourge of extremism”.
Zulhayat Ismayil, vice president of Kashgar University in Xinjiang, meanwhile rejected concerns about “coercive and discriminatory enforcement of family planning and birth control policies”.
She insisted Uyghur birth rates “conform to the general trends”, and the fall in births could be explained by more prosperity and rising women’s employment.
Asked about the delegation’s plans while in Geneva, Xu said they would brief the ongoing UN Human Rights Council session “on the actual situation in Xinjiang”.
The delegation will also meet with acting UN rights chief Nada Al-Nashif, the UN rights office confirmed.
Earlier this month, China’s ambassador in Geneva Chen Xu warned Beijing’s cooperation with the UN rights office was “in danger” after the report.
Since the rights council opened its 51st session last week, China has strived to show it has broad backing for its criticism, presenting a joint statement by nearly two dozen countries and with multiple pro-Beijing groups taking the floor in its defence.
Western countries and their allies are meanwhile under pressure from rights groups to present a resolution to the council condemning the alleged violations or even ordering an investigation.
But fears abound that a failed resolution would signal a shifting power balance and weaken the council.
Asked about how China would respond to a resolution, Xu said one would have to question the true motives, which he suggested would be an attempt by “anti-China forces (to) smear and slander Xinjiang”.
But in any case, he said, China would “resolutely adopt appropriate countermeasures”.
“We are not afraid. We are ready for the fight.”