China should grant “meaningful access” to UN investigators seeking to probe reports of human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Tuesday.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet wants to send a team to Xinjiang, in northwestern China, to investigate the reports.
“We urge China to allow meaningful access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including High Commissioner Bachelet,” Borrell told the UN Human Rights Council.
“This is key to enable an independent, impartial and transparent assessment of the grave concerns that the international community has,” Borrell said.
The European Union itself has been under fire from human rights groups because of a tentative investment deal with China that critics say turns a blind eye to the plight of the Uighurs.
The United Nations estimates that more than 1 million Chinese Muslims, many of whom are Uighurs, have been detained in internment camps in Xinjiang.
Borrell’s comments follow a vote in the Canadian parliament on Monday to declare China’s treatment of its Uighur minority population a genocide.
The motion — which passed 266 to 0 — was supported by all opposition parties and a handful of lawmakers from the governing Liberal Party.
Rights groups believe that China has detained up to a million Uighurs and used them as forced labor over the past few years in what the state defines as “reeducation camps.”
They also say Beijing has used an oppressive system of mass surveillance, detention, indoctrination, and even forced sterilization.
In December, the International Criminal Court rejected an application from Uighurs in exile to investigate China for alleged genocide and crimes against humanity.
Judges said the court was unable to act because China was outside its jurisdiction.