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GENEVA: A UN human rights panel said on Friday that it had received many credible reports that one million ethnic Uighurs in China are held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy”.

Gay McDougall, a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, cited estimates that another two million Uighurs and Muslim minorities are forced into so-called “political camps for indoctrination”.

She was addressing the start of a two-day regular examination of the record of China, including Hong Kong and Macao.

A Chinese delegation of some 50 officials made no immediate comment on her remarks at the Geneva session that continues on Monday.

The UN anti-discrimination committee signalled concern over China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority as it considers Beijing’s record over recent years.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discri­mina­tion started reviewing China’s report on Friday. Chinese delegation leader Yu Jianhua highlighted economic progress and rising living standards among other things.

Committee vice-chairwoman Gay McDougall said members are “deeply concerned” by numerous reports “that, in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability, (China) has turned the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.” Monitoring groups say the Uighurs have been targeted in a surveillance and security campaign that has sent thousands into detention and indoctrination centres.

The Geneva-based committee continues its hearing, with conclusions expected later.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2018