France's president has called for an international mission under UN supervision to travel to China's northwestern Xinjiang region to address global concerns at the treatment of the Uyghur minority there, highlighting what critics charge is among the most acute human rights crises in the world today.
"France has requested that an international mission under the aegis of the United Nations go to Xinjiang in order to take into account the concerns that we collectively have on the situation of the Muslim Uyghur minority," President Emmanuel Macron told the UN General Assembly on September 22.
More than 1 million members of the region's Uyghur population and other Muslims are believed to have been forced into detention centers that Beijing describes as training centers to curb extremism and promote new skills.
"Fundamental rights are not a Western idea that one could oppose as an interference," Macron said. "[T]hese are the principles of our organization, enshrined in texts that the member states of the United Nations have freely consented to sign and to respect."
Uyghurs are the largest Turkic-speaking indigenous community in Xinjiang, followed by Kazakhs.
Uyghurs and members of other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang have been subjected to Chinese roundups and placed in concentration camps since 2017.
Accounts have emerged of torture, rape, and other abuse in the camps.
Dozens of rights groups have demanded that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) “reverse its mistake” in awarding Beijing the 2022 Winter Olympics because of China’s human rights record, including its treatment of Uyghurs.
Washington has recently ratcheted up pressure on China over its treatment of Uyghur Muslims.
A bipartisan U.S. bill targeting imports that are made with the help of labor by detained Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China passed overwhelmingly in the U.S. House of Representatives on September 22.
If enacted after a vote in the Senate, the bill would ban goods thought to have been made in Xinjiang with forced labor by such detainees.
It could force companies to steer clear of a region that produces around 80 percent of China's cotton, as well as avoiding other manufactured goods.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this month that American companies are “becoming aware” of human rights abuses in the Chinese province as he reiterated his call for them to reconsider doing business there.
The U.S. Commerce Department has blacklisted Chinese companies allegedly involved in using forced labor by Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, including ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, and Hui, also known as Dungans.