Updated: March 29, 2019 04:58 AM GMT
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets with Muslim community leaders after a parliamentary session in Wellington on March 19. Ardern vowed never to utter the name of the twin-mosque gunman as she opened a somber session of parliament with an evocative "as salaam alaikum" message of peace to Muslims. She has now been urged to speak out against abuses being committed against Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang during her upcoming trip in China. (Photo by David Lintott/AFP)
A leading human rights group has called on New Zealand’s prime minister to use her upcoming visit to China to speak out about rights abuses being committed in Xinjiang.
Human Rights Watch has written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asking her to publicly express concern about mass abuses of Turkic Muslims in meetings with Chinese.
Ardern will visit China, where credible estimates suggest authorities are arbitrarily detaining one million Turkic Muslims, on April 1.
The open letter was sent on March 29 and signed by HRW’s executive director Ken Roth and Sophie Richardson, the group’s China director.
“Following the horrific attacks on mosques in Christchurch, Prime Minister Ardern spoke forcefully in defense of Muslims’ rights,” said Sophie Richardson, HRW’s China director.
“Ardern should show the same global leadership by publicly calling on China to respect the human rights of Muslims there.”
A statement put out by HRW pointed out that New Zealand did not join a November 2018 letter with 15 other governments to China requesting access to Xinjiang to assess the human rights situation.
HRW also said that New Zealand did not address the issue in its national statements at the recent session of the United Nations Human Rights Council despite significant attention to these grave human rights concerns by the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, a broad range of national delegations and human rights organizations.
“Prime Minister Ardern should use her visit to Beijing to join the ranks of governments outraged by the unprecedented abuses of Turkic Muslims in China,” Richardson said.
“She should publicly call on Chinese leaders to close the ‘political education’ camps in Xinjiang, end the widespread abuses and allow independent, international observers’ access to the region.”
HRW and other rights groups have said that Chinese authorities have detained Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims — outside any legal process — in “political education” camps for their perceived disloyalty to the government and Chinese Communist Party. In those camps, they are subjected to forced political indoctrination, renunciation of their faith, mistreatment and, in some cases, torture.
Numerous U.N. experts, treaty bodies and the high commissioner for human rights have expressed grave concern about the situation in Xinjiang and called for unrestricted access to the region.