The international community should impose sanctions on China over its treatment of minorities in its far west region, Human Rights Watch said Monday, where as many as one million people may have been swept up in mass detentions.
China has long imposed draconian restrictions on the lives of Muslim minorities in its Xinjiang region in the name of combating terrorism and separatism, with police measures intensifying in recent years.
Upwards of one million ethnic Uighurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities are being held in counter-extremism centres, according to estimates cited by a United Nations panel on racial discrimination last month.
In response to the government's actions, the international community should "impose targeted sanctions" on Chinese officials "linked to abuses" in Xinjiang, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report detailing China's repressive actions in the region.
The Chinese government has impeded reporting in Xinjiang, preventing a clear accounting of the situation.
But mounting evidence in the form of government documents and the testimony of escapees suggests Beijing has interned large numbers of people in a sprawling network of extra-judicial internment camps, where they are subject to political and cultural indoctrination.
The report says prisoners in the camps are "forced to learn Mandarin Chinese, sing praises of the Chinese Communist Party, and ... those who resist or are deemed to have failed to “learn” are punished." HRW says prisoners have no legal rights or access to lawyers or family.
The HRW report outlined the increasingly severe crackdown on Xinjiang's minorities, including facial recognition and DNA sampling, to monitor and control the region's population.
It also described the physical and mental abuse of prisoners in the camps, citing interviews with several former detainees who have since fled the country.
China has branded reports of such camps "completely untrue", saying that the "education and training centres" to which "minor criminals" are assigned serve merely "to assist in their rehabilitation and reintegration."
A Chinese official told the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva last month that tough security measures in Xinjiang were necessary to combat extremism and terrorism, but did not target any specific ethnic group or restrict religious freedoms.
HRW's call for sanctions follows a letter from members of the US Congress last month calling for the country to place sanctions against seven officials and two surveillance equipment manufacturers, which have provided surveillance equipment for use in the centres.