France slams 'unacceptable' Chinese imprisonment of Uighurs

Paris (AFP) –


Paris on Tuesday said the imprisonment of ethnic and religious minorities in China's western Xinjiang region is "unacceptable" and demanded that Beijing let independent human rights observers visit the area.

Rights groups and experts estimate that more than one million ethnic Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking minorities have been rounded up into a network of internment camps.

"France is closely following all the testimonies relayed by the press and through human rights organisations," Foreign Affairs minister Jean-Yves le Drian told parliament.

"According to information that we read or have, there are imprisonment camps for Uighurs, mass detentions, disappearances, forced labour, forced sterilisations, the destruction of Uighur heritage," Le Drian said.

"All these actions are unacceptable. We condemn them firmly," added Le Drian, prompting applause in parliament.

He said France wanted China to allow access to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

His comments come as tensions between the West and China are rising over a new draconian security law in Hong Kong and mounting opposition to the use of products made by Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

Earlier this month, the US slapped sanctions on senior Chinese officials, demanding an end to the "horrific" abuse of Uighurs, and on Monday blacklisted 11 Chinese firms for alleged complicity in the repression.

On Sunday, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused Beijing of "gross, egregious human rights abuses".

Beijing denies any wrongdoing, saying Uighurs are attending vocational training centres, and has imposed retaliatory sanctions on three US senators.