China yesterday urged the United States to abandon its "prejudice" over Xinjiang, as Washington considers sanctions against Chinese officials and companies linked to allegations of human rights abuses. "We have a lot of tools at our disposal", she said.
The group said in a report that Xinjiang's Muslim population of about 13 million has been subjected to "forced political indoctrination, collective punishment, restrictions on movement and communications, heightened religious restrictions, and mass surveillance in violation of global human rights law".
Asked whether or not the U.S. was considering economic sanctions against Chinese officials accused of overseeing the policies, Nauert acknowledged the State Department had received a letter from members of Congress on the issue, but declined to discuss details of any potential government action. "We're not going to preview any sanctions that may or may not happen", Nauert said.
Geng Shuang, China's foreign ministry spokesman, said that the government is trying to "promote stability, development, unity and livelihoods" while ending "ethnic separatism and violent terrorist criminal activities".
"The Chinese government protects people's freedom of religion and people of all ethnic groups are fully entitled to freedom of religion".
In August, a bipartisan group of USA lawmakers called for Chinese officials involved in alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang to be sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act - the 2012 law originally created to freeze the assets of certain Russian government officials and businessmen accused of human rights violations. Although Beijing has denied the allegations, Xinjiang authorities have acknowledged the existence of "political education camps" and "characterize them as correctional or rehabilitation facilities for "incorrect" or "sick" thoughts", HRW writes.
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The government has previously blamed anti-China forces for being behind criticism of its policies in Xinjiang.
"China urges the United Nations human rights high commissioner and office to scrupulously abide by the mission and principles of the United Nations charter, respect China's sovereignty, fairly and objectively carry out its duties, and not listen to one-sided information", he told a daily news briefing.
Geng was referring to a report from the group on Monday that said rights violations in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region are of a scope and scale not seen in the country since the Cultural Revolution.
Human Rights Watch released the most detailed and comprehensive report yet of witness testimony from the re-education camps in Xinjiang, and the families and lives torn apart by arbitrary detentions and the police state: "Eradicating ideological viruses": China's campaign of repression against Xinjiang's Muslims.
But diplomats and activists are raising concerns about the treatment of Chinese Muslims following reports of indoctrination camps in the communist country.