Switzerland joins calls demanding closure of Uighur camps

Uighur internment camp in Xinjiang, December 2018. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Switzerland has called on China to close internment camps in Xinjiang province where at least one million ethnic minority Muslims are reportedly being held.

This content was published on November 27, 2019 - 10:08

In a statement published on TuesdayExternal link, the Swiss foreign ministry said China should heed the concerns expressed by various countries and allow United Nations observers “unimpeded access” to inspect the camps.

The statement comes two days after the release of the so-called China CablesExternal link: leaked documents from within the Communist party that reveal further details about state policy towards the ethnic Uighur group in western China.

Published by the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists, the files claim that the camps are being used to brainwash and torture over one million Uighurs. Chinese authorities have denied this and say that the cables are “pure fabrication and fake newsExternal link”.

The Swiss foreign ministry, meanwhile, already asked China in November 2018 to shut down the camps. Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis also brought up the issue during a Switzerland-China strategic dialogue forum last month.

“The respect of minority rights, as well as freedom of expression, of press, and of religion are a key focus of Switzerland’s human rights policy in China,” the ministry wrote.

International reaction

The publication of the China Cables has also spurred reactions in Brussels, where the European Parliament is set to discuss the Uighur camps during its December session.

Incoming Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen reportedly plans to speak to Beijing during her first official day in office on December 1, where she will raise the issue of human rights, German newspaper Die Welt reported.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also challenged the Chinese government about the “systematic repression of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang”.

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