Australia’s foreign minister raised China’s treatment of Uighur minorities in Xinjiang at a meeting with her Chinese counterpart yesterday as Beijing comes under increasing international scrutiny over its controversial security policy.
Marise Payne spoke after meeting with China’s chief diplomat Wang Yi on the first visit to Beijing by an Australian foreign minister in nearly three years as both countries pursue a thaw in relations.
Payne visited Beijing for the Fifth Australia-China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue. It is rare for foreign officials to publicly chastise China over its human rights record during a visit to the country.
Earlier this week, Payne said she would register “serious concerns” over the huge facilities in northwestern Xinjiang region, where activists say up to 1 million Uighurs mainly-Muslim minorities are detained in political re-education camps. “We did exchange views on that matter,” Payne said at a press conference alongside Wang, but she did not elaborate on what she had told him behind closed doors.
The United States and other countries called on China to release people held in the detention centres. China also faced a grilling at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday. The Chinese delegation responded by reiterating Beijing’s branding description of the camps as vocational “training centres” that were built to help people drawn to extremism stay away from terrorism and allow them to be reintegrated into society.
The reports coming from the camps highlight abuse and torture towards the Muslim community, forcing them to eat pork and consume alcohol. China has long battled an ugly human rights history and as a superpower is far behind many third world nations in human rights violations.
Advocacy groups including Human Rights Watch want the Human Rights Council to press Chinese authorities on issues like the use of mass detention centres in the western Xinjiang region where many Uighurs live.