The UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called on China to release the detained Uighurs in Xinjiang, an autonomous region in the country.
The committee emphasized there were reports stating certain Tibetans, Uighurs and other ethnic minorities, peaceful political protestors and human rights defenders, have been tortured or subjected to ill-treatment.
Although there is no official data, it estimates that there may be up to a million detainees, held for “even nonthreatening expressions of Muslim ethno-religious culture like daily greetings.”
The report also said the ethnic Uighur groups were “disproportionately” targeted, including with baseless police stops, scanning of mobile phones, and collecting extensive biometric data — DNA samples and iris scans.
The travel restriction for the Xinjiang residents also has a high impact, particularly for those who wish to travel for religion purposes, while Uighurs who left the country were allegedly brought back to China against their will.
The committee called on China to “immediately release individuals currently detained under these circumstances, and allow those wrongfully held to seek redress.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry rejected the attempt by U.S. lawmakers to impose sanctions on Chinese officials, saying its citizens enjoy religious freedom and U.S. lawmakers should properly serve their country.
Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group which makes up around 45 percent of the population of Xinjiang, has long accused China’s authorities for cultural, religious and economic discrimination.
China stepped up its restrictions on the region in the past two years, banning men from growing beards and women from wearing veils, and introducing what many experts regard as the world’s most extensive electronic surveillance program, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Up to 1 million people, or about 7 percent of the Muslim population in China’s Xinjiang region, have now been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to U.S. officials and United Nations experts