Foreign Affairs

Ardern softly raises concern over Uighurs

Jacinda Ardern has added her voice to the growing concern at the plight of Uighur Muslims in China.

Uighurs are a Muslim minority who number roughly 11 million, and mainly live in Xinjiang, in the far West of China.

China’s treatment of the Uighurs has concerned human rights watchers. A United Nations committee was told in August that as many as 1 million Uighur and other Muslim Chinese had been detained to undergo “re-education”.

In re-education centres, they sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party and write “self-criticism” essays, according to The New York Times

China has denied abuses, telling the UN Committee on Human Rights Abuses no such centres existed. 

But New York Times reported in September that China has expanded the centres. It found people had been detained for crimes as minor as reciting verses of the Quran at a funeral. 

Speaking out, but softly

Ardern told media at her weekly post-cabinet press conference that she was concerned by the Uighur’s plight, although she had not recently been briefed on the subject.

She said she might raise her concerns at a future meeting with Chinese officials, but made no firm commitment. 

“Generally speaking we take the opportunity to raise issues of concern,[but] it would be pre-emptive to say what I would discuss,” she said.

Ardern flagged human rights concerns in a recent meeting with Li Xi, the Party Secretary of Guangdong Province, who visited earlier this year, as reported by Newsroom.

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