Australia on Thursday said it is seeking a United Nations investigation into allegations that women in China’s “re-education” camps for Uighurs were systematically raped, and sexually abused, according to a report.
“These latest reports of systematic torture and abuse of women are deeply disturbing and raise serious questions regarding the treatment of Uighurs and other religious and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang,” a spokesperson for the Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne told Bloomberg in a statement Thursday.
According to reports last year, up to three million Uighur Muslims in China’s western Xinjiang province have been plucked from their homes since 2017 by authorities and disappeared into a prison camp, which the Chinese government glosses over as a re-education facility.
The BBC on Wednesday reported that women in those camps have been systematically raped, sexually abused, and tortured.
On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department said it was “deeply disturbed,” by the allegations.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Thursday said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was already invited to visit Xinjiang “and the two sides have been in contact with each other,” Bloomberg reported.
China denies accusations of abuses in Xinjiang, saying they “are not about ethnicity, religion or human rights, but about anti-violence, anti-terrorism, anti-separatism, and de-radicalization.”
“We welcome the foreign nationals with an unbiased view to visit Xinjiang to see with their own eyes a real Xinjiang,” he added. “In the meantime, we oppose the interference in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of human rights and oppose the presumption of guilt or any investigation based on it.”
The former President Donald Trump’s administration, earlier this year, determined the Chinese government had committed “genocide” and “crimes against humanity” against Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities.
It appears the current Biden administration will also be tough on Beijing as Secretary of State Antony Blinken, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January that “forcing men, women, and children into concentration camps” constituted genocide.
The Associated Press contributed to this report