China is carrying out a "mass, systematic campaign of human rights violations" against its mostly Muslim Uyghur minority population, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.
New York-based HRW, in a report released on September 10, presented evidence of what it labeled the "arbitrary detention, torture, and mistreatment, and the increasingly pervasive controls on daily life" by the Chinese government in its Xinjiang region.
The report echoes remarks by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which on August 10 said ethnic Uyghurs in China were being held in "counterextremism centers," with millions more forced into reeducation camps, turning China's Uyghur region into "something that resembles a massive internment camp."
Sophie Richardson, HRW's China director, says in the latest report that the Chinese government is committing human rights abuses in Xinjiang on a "scale unseen in the country in decades."
"The campaign of repression in Xinjiang is key test of whether the United Nations and concerned governments will sanction an increasingly powerful China to end this abuse."
The report urges foreign governments to pursue a range of multilateral and unilateral actions against China for its actions, including "targeted sanctions" against those responsible.
At a regular briefing on September 10, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang declined to give a detailed response to the report, and accused HRW of being "full of prejudice" against China and of distorting facts.
He said that measures in Xinjiang aimed to "promote stability, development, unity and livelihoods," while also cracking down on "ethnic separatism and violent terrorist criminal activities."
An ethnic Kazakh Chinese citizen who fled to Kazakhstan earlier this year testified in court about what she said was a network of "reeducation camps" in western China where she said thousands of ethnic Kazakhs were incarcerated and received "political indoctrination."
Sayragul Sauytbay said her position as a kindergarten administrator gave her access to documents about what she said was a state program to "reeducate" Muslims from indigenous minority communities including Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, ethnic Kyrgyz, and Hui.
China has broadly denied such allegations, claiming the country has prevented a “great tragedy” in the far-western Xinjiang region. It has said Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tensions between the Uyghur minority the ethnic Han Chinese majority.