Amid rising concern over the widespread forced labour, China has now accused the European Union (EU) of imposing “unacceptable” preconditions on a visit to Xinjiang province. According to ANI, the Chinese mission to the EU said that Beijing has invited diplomats from the EU and its member states posted in China to visit Xinjiang many times. However, it added that the trip has “not materialised” due to preconditions set by the EU side, which are “unacceptable to any sovereign state”.

The Chinese mission to the EU said, “China has sent an invitation to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Xinjiang and the two sides have been in constant communication”.

It added, “Beijing has invited diplomats from the EU and its member states posted in China to visit Xinjiang many times. However, the trip has not materialized due to preconditions set by the EU side, which are unacceptable to any sovereign state.”

China’s statement comes after the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s foreign and security policy agency, said that the bloc has taken a “firm stance” on human rights in Xinjiang and would introduce new due diligence rules to ensure European companies identify and address forced labour risks in their supply chains. EU’s comments were also included in a written response to a February petition urging the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to investigate the case of Ilham Tohti, who is an outspoken Uyghur economic professor who was jailed for separatism in 2014, and the treatment of other Uyghur activists.

China rejects ‘groundless accusations’

It is worth mentioning that rights groups believe that at least one million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps in the Xinjiang region, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour. But, while responding to EEAS’ remarks, the Chinese mission said that the EU’s statement is in “total disregard of facts and confounding black and white”. It also contended that the EU side is on “no position to make groundless accusations”.

The Chinese mission to the EU said, “We express our strong disapproval of and firm opposition to it. The document, listing what the EU has done on Xinjiang in recent years, is clear evidence of its interference in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of the so-called Xinjiang-related issues and fully exposes its hypocrisy on human rights issues”.

It added, “Over the past few decades, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, Xinjiang has made unprecedented and historic progress in economic and social development, human rights and people’s well being. No one knows better than the 25 million-plus Xinjiang people about Xinjiang’s human rights situation and people’s well being”.

Xinjiang dispute

Xinjiang is a province in Communist China where Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been placed in detention centres. Several former detainees allege they were subjected to attempted indoctrination, physical abuse and even sterilisation. However, China regularly denies such mistreatment and says the camps provide vocational training.

But reports by Western media have revealed that Chinese authorities were deliberately sending Uyghur women of childbearing age into forced abortions, intrauterine injections and sterilisation in the region. Some western states have even called for an investigation into whether Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang amount to genocide. The US, Britain and Canada have described China’s policies in Xinjiang as “genocide” and have also sanctioned several members of Xinjiang’s political and economic hierarchy in coordinated action over the allegations.

(With inputs from ANI)