China’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Liu Xiaoming, gave an interview with the BBC on Sunday to defend Beijing against accusations by British officials of “gross and egregious” treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
In his interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Liu stated that “There’s a lot of fake accusations against China.”
“Uighur people enjoy peaceful, harmonious coexistence with other ethnic groups of people,” he said, denying any targeted mistreatment.
“We treat every ethnic group as equal,” Liu added.
Human rights groups and international governments estimate that up to a million ethnic Uighurs (also spelled Uyghurs) and other Muslim minorities have been detained in “re-education camps,” which Beijing officials say are necessary measures to counter terrorism and separatism in the Xinjiang region.
Confronted with drone footage from last August that appeared to show hundreds of blindfolded and shackled Uighur men being led to trains, Liu said “I do not know where you get this videotape.”
He attempted to explain the video, saying that “sometimes you have a transfer of prisoners, in any country.”
In addition to accusations regarding the unjust detainment of Muslim minorities in internment camps, reports have also come out accusing Chinese authorities of attempting to limit the Uighur population by forcing women to be sterilized or be fitted with contraceptive devices.
Liu was also shown a video of a Uighur woman saying that she had been forced by the government to undergo a sterilization procedure, which he rejected.
“There’s no, so-called, pervasive, massive, forced sterilization among Uighur women in China,” he said, before adding that “I cannot rule out single cases. For any country, there’s single cases.”
Liu also denied any practice of “ethnic cleansing,” stating that over the last 40 years the Uighur population in Xinjiang has grown from around four million to 11 million.
However, demographic research which draws from Chinese official data does not show records as far back as 40 years ago, the BBC reported.
Research conducted by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation suggested that the rate of population growth in the two largest Uighur communities dropped by more than 80% from 2013 to 2018.
Liu’s interview comes as UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has given interviews criticizing China over human rights abuses perpetrated against Muslim minority populations.
“It is deeply, deeply troubling and the reports on the human aspect of this – from forced sterilisation to the education camps – are reminiscent of something we have not seen for a very long time,” Raab told the BBC.
“We want a positive relationship with China but we can’t see behaviour like that and not call it out.”
The UK has been vocal in condemning China over its mistreatment of Uighurs but has stopped short of issuing official countermeasures against the government – as they have done in their responses to Beijing’s national security law in Hong Kong and security concerns over Huawei.
However, Raab did hint at the possibility of such discussions to deliver targeted responses over this issue.
“It is clear that there are gross, egregious human rights abuses going on. We are working with our international partners on this. It is deeply, deeply troubling,” he said.
While Raab did not state what measures the British government is considering, other countries have previously spoken out against China’s human rights infringements in Xinjiang.
The United States, a close political ally of the UK, imposed mandatory sanctions last month on Chinese officials deemed to be responsible for the detainment of Uighurs. The US Commerce Department said on Monday that they would add 11 Chinese companies to their growing blacklist of firms involved in using forced labor by Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.
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