Israel signed a statement presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) yesterday urging China to allow independent observers access to its western Xinjiang region, where UN experts say nearly a million Uyghurs and other minorities have been unlawfully detained in camps.
The decision, the first of its kind by Israel, came after pressure from US President Joe Biden’s administration, Walla news reported.
The joint statement – backed by Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and the US – cited reports of torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilisation, sexual and gender-based violence and forced separation of children from their parents.
Beijing denies all allegations of abuse of Uyghurs and describes the camps as vocational training facilities to combat religious extremism.
“Credible reports indicate that over a million people have been arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang and that there is widespread surveillance disproportionately targeting Uyghurs and members of other minorities and restrictions on fundamental freedoms and Uyghur culture,” the joint statement said.
“We urge China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the High Commissioner,” it added.
According to the Walla report, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid decided to accede to a request from the US State Department to back the measure, after a long debate in the Foreign Ministry about possible fallout from the move.
However, Israel, which views China as one of its most important trading partners, did not put out a public statement explaining its backing for the UNHCR call, in an apparent bid to keep a low profile and avoid angering Beijing.
Since 2017, China has carried out massive and systematic abuses against Muslims living in Xinjiang.
China’s alleged erosion of religious, cultural and human rights for more than one million ethnic Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang in the last decade has enraged western countries, prompting sanctions against Chinese officials and firms.