Israel has dropped its signature from a UN statement condemning China's human rights violations against the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province, including torture, forced sterilisation and forced disappearances.
The 43 countries that signed the statement, including Turkey, Japan, Canada, Germany, the US and Britain, expressed particular concern at "credible-based reports" of the existence of "re-education camps" in Xinjiang.
The move comes despite Israel's signing of a statement in June at the UN Human Rights Council urging China to allow independent observers access to its western Xinjiang region. According to the Times of Israel, an Israeli diplomatic official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the government had received a draft resolution beforehand but decided against supporting the initiative, due to "other interests that it has to balance".
The statement was read out by France's Ambassador to the UN, Nicolas De Riviere, at a meeting of the General Assembly's Human Rights Committee. "We call on China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and her office," said the signatories. "We are particularly concerned about the situation in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region."
The statement cited "credible" reports that "indicate the existence of a large network of 'political re-education' camps where over a million people have been arbitrarily detained."
In response, China's UN Ambassador Zhang Jun criticised the statement as "groundless accusations" and "lies". He accused the US and a few other unnamed signatories of "using human rights as a pretext for political manoeuvring to provoke confrontation." The Chinese official defended the development of Xinjiang, saying the lives of its people were getting better by the day. "Your plot to obstruct China's development is doomed to failure," he added.
China has come under increased criticism as a result of its treatment of Uyghur Muslims. In August 2018, a UN Human Rights Committee reported that Beijing is holding nearly one million Uyghur Muslims in secret "re-education" camps in East Turkestan. Many return to their families in a weak condition, unable to walk and talk, and showing signs of abuse.