France slams ‘institutional repression’ of China’s Uighurs

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Wednesday denounced what he called the “institutionalised repression” of China’s Uighur minority.

Speaking by video link at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Le Drian said that witness accounts and documents from the Chinese region of Xinjiang pointed to “unjustifiable practises towards Uighurs, and a system of large-scale surveillance and institutionalised repression.”

Rights groups believe that at least one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslim minorities are incarcerated in camps in the western region of Xinjiang.

Le Drian cited Xinjiang among several examples of “considerable regressions for human rights” in 2020.

He also listed the “attempted murder” of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned with a nerve agent in an attack he blames on the Kremlin, as well the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Belarus, the ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen and the coup in Myanmar.

Le Drian also expressed “great concern” about the fate of Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was jailed in 2018 after defending a woman arrested for protesting against the requirement for Iranian women to wear the hijab.