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China envoy vows 'fight' over alleged Xinjiang rights abuses

Xu Guixiang, director of the information office of China's Xinjiang autonomous region speaks during a Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. Guixiang says Chinese authorities are ready for a “fight” with Western critics over alleged rights abuses in anti-extremism campaign against Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic groups in the region. (AP Photo/Jamey Keaten)

GENEVA (AP) — An envoy from China’s Xinjiang province said Thursday that Chinese authorities are ready for a “fight” with “anti-China” critics in the West and elsewhere over allegations of rights abuses in the anti-extremism campaign against Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic groups in the region.

Xinjiang government spokesman Xu Guixiang said Chinese authorities won’t be afraid if “anti-China forces” attempt to use the ongoing Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva to seek greater scrutiny of the situation in Xinjiang.

Xu has spoken repeatedly in defense of China’s policies designed to fight violent extremism in Xinjiang. This week he is heading a delegation in Geneva to take the message to the rights office and diplomats at the 47-member state council, of which both China and the United States are currently members.

Some Western nations are trying to maintain international scrutiny of the rights situation through the council after the U.N. rights office issued a scathing new report last month that alleged “crimes against humanity” had taken place in Xinjiang in recent years. Such Western efforts could come through a draft resolution or other steps at the council.

“If some forces in the international community — or even anti-China forces — make so-called ‘Xinjiang-related motions’ or so-called ‘resolutions,’ we won’t be afraid,” Xu said. “We will take countermeasures resolutely and fight.”

Xu acknowledged, in a somewhat unusual admission: “Of course, the human rights situation in Xinjiang is in a process of further improving and making more efforts,” before adding, “but there is no such thing as the massive violation of human rights as claimed by the Xinjiang report.”

He said China is looking for “exchange, dialogue and cooperation” and hopes to “learn from the beneficial measures taken by other countries in the world” on human rights. But Xu also insisted unspecified “human rights disasters” perpetrated by Western countries should be investigated, too.

In the waning minutes of her last day in office on Aug. 31, the office of Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a report accusing China of serious human rights violations against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups. It called on the world community to give “urgent attention” to the situation in Xinjiang.

Human rights groups have accused China of sweeping a million or more people from the minority groups into detention camps where many have said they were tortured, sexually assaulted, and forced to abandon their language and religion.