Largest group representing Uighur exiles urge Blinken to demand China close Xinjiang camps
The largest group representing exiled ethnic Uighurs has written to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to demand that Beijing China close its internment camps in the Xinjiang region in talks on Thursday.
Activists and U.N. experts say that more than 1 million Muslim Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims are being held against their will in harsh camps in the remote western region.
China rejects US charges that it has committed genocide against ethnic and religious minorities, and says the camps provide vocational training to help stamp out Islamist extremism and separatism.
China's foreign ministry said on Thursday it would not make concessions to the US on key issues including Xinjiang and Hong Kong, ahead of high-level meetings between the two countries' diplomats in Alaska.
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan are set for talks with senior Chinese official Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi later Thursday.
It is the highest-level face-to-face diplomatic meeting between the two countries since US President Joe Biden took office.
Blinken has already accused China of coercion and aggression, citing its actions towards Taiwan and Hong Kong and in the contested East and South China Seas.
China's extensive territorial claims in the East and South China Seas, contested by Japan and other Asian states, have become a priority issue in increasingly testy relations between Washington and Beijing.
Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, told Blinken: "First and foremost, it is imperative that China immediately and unconditionally ends the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in East Turkestan.
"This includes that China closes all internment camps and unconditionally releases all those arbitrarily detained," he said in the letter from his group's base in Munich, Germany.
The exiles call Xinjiang "East Turkestan", and the group uses a different spelling for the word Uighur.
Isa said China must also end the use of forced labour in Xinjiang and other regions and allow U.N. monitors to investigate.
Chen Xu, China's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told the U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday: "Today, Xinjiang and Tibet enjoy prosperity and stability ... It can’t be more absurd to pin the 'genocide' label on China, and this attempt will not go anywhere."
U.N. experts and rights groups say more than a million people have been detained in Xinjiang in recent years.
On Wednesday, European Union countries agreed in principle to blacklist Chinese officials for human rights abuses, according to diplomats.
China has said allegations of forced labour and human rights violations in the region are groundless, and that there are no "detention camps".It has also said all those who have attended the complexes in question have "graduated" and gone home. Access is restricted and it is not possible to verify Beijing's assertions independently.