US and Australia leaders ‘deeply disturbed’ by reports of systematic rape of Muslims in China camps

ABC News, 04 February 2021

Below is an article published by ABC News. Photo Ben Blanchard.

The United States is “deeply disturbed” by reports of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.

Key points:

  • The US alleges China committed genocide and must be met with serious consequences
  • President Joe Biden made clear he plans to continue a tough approach
  • China denies accusations, claiming camps are to help stamp out Islamist extremism

WARNING: Some people may find the contents in this article distressing.

There must be serious consequences for atrocities committed there, the US State Department said.

A BBC report earlier on Wednesday local time said women in the camps were subject to rape, sexual abuse and torture.

The British broadcaster said “several former detainees and a guard have told the BBC they experienced or saw evidence of an organised system of mass rape, sexual abuse and torture”.

Asked to comment, a State Department spokeswoman said: “We are deeply disturbed by reports, including first-hand testimony, of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang.”

The spokeswoman reiterated US charges that China has committed “crimes against humanity and genocide” in Xinjiang.

“These atrocities shock the conscience and must be met with serious consequences,” she added.

The official said China should allow “immediate and independent investigations by international observers” into the rape allegations “in addition to the other atrocities being committed in Xinjiang”.

The official did not specify what the consequences might be, but said Washington would speak out jointly with allies to condemn the atrocities and “consider all appropriate tools to promote accountability for those responsible and deter future abuses”.

The previous US administration of former president Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Chinese officials and firms it linked to abuses in Xinjiang.

President Joe Biden’s new administration has made clear it would continue a tough approach to Beijing on this and other issues.

China denies accusations of abuses in Xinjiang, saying the complexes provide vocational training to help stamp out Islamist extremism and separatism.

Those in the facilities have since “graduated”, it said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the BBC report was “wholly without factual basis” and charged that the people interviewed for it had been “proved multiple times” to be “actors disseminating false information”.

The Biden administration was quick to endorse a Trump administration determination that China had committed genocide in Xinjiang.

Last year, a report by a German researcher published by a Washington think tank accused China of using forced sterilization, forced abortion and coercive family planning against Muslims in Xinjiang.

Australian ministers criticise China over abuses in Xinjiang

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong both issued statements criticising the Chinese Government’s actions in the region.

A spokesperson for Senator Payne said Australia had consistently raised “significant concerns” with China over human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

“These latest reports of systematic torture and abuse of women are deeply disturbing and raise serious questions regarding the treatment of Uyghurs and other religious and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang,” the spokesperson said.

“We consider transparency to be of utmost importance and continue to urge China to allow international observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to be given immediate, meaningful, and unfettered access to Xinjiang at the earliest opportunity.”

Senator Wong said, “anyone reading these women’s testimonies would be disgusted by what they were subjected to”.

“This evidence is counter to China’s international human rights obligations and is not consistent with the behaviour of a respected and responsible international power.”