Colombo, March 8: Following the unequivocal support extended by China to Sri Lanka on the Core Group’s draft resolution at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Sri Lanka questioned the reliability of the data in the report of the Special Rapporteur, Ahmed Shaheed, on the Uighur Muslims of China.
Sri Lanka’s representative C.A.Chandraprema strongly defended China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang province of China in the Interactive Dialogue on March 4.
Chandraprema said that Special Rapporteur Shaheed’s claims about discrimination against the Uighurs were based only on biased and sensational reporting in the Western media.
Problems facing the Muslims community in Sri Lanka received a brief reference in Shaheed’s report, specifically referring to mob attacks against Muslims in which the police appeared to be complicit. In reply to Shaheed, Chandraprema said that the Sri Lankan Constitution upholds the right to freedom of religion and denied violence and discrimination against Muslims following the Easter Sunday bombings in April 2019.
Focus On Defending China
Having said that Ambassador Chandraprema quickly switched focus to the UN Special Rapporteur’s findings on the treatment of the Uighurs in China’s Xingjiang province. He said Shaheed’s report on the Uighurs had quoted “various Western media outlets” that had made “various sensational claims” about issues encountered by the Muslims in China.
“We have serious concerns about the credibility of these sources. We note that the policy of freedom of religion has been fully implemented in the Xinxiang province,” he said.
In a broadside against Western countries, the Sri Lankan Envoy said: “Many Muslim countries have been destroyed in the past two decades in the guise of promoting democracy. However, Xinxiang has been at peace and has enjoyed democracy with the rest of China during this period.”
Shaheed had also been critical of the Indian Government in his Islamophobia report which drew a harsh response from New Delhi’s representative participating in the Interactive Dialogue. But the Lankan Ambassador did not make a reference to the allegations against India during his intervention.
Colombage Defends China
Sri Lanka’s Envoy’s remarks came in Beijing’s defense came in the wake of Foreign Secretary Adm. Prof. Jayanath Colambage’s assertion that he had “seen no evidence” to suggest genocide in Xinjiang.
The Foreign Secretary had called the Government of China “guardians” of the people of Xinjiang. Colambage’s interview was widely circulated in the form of a promotional video by the Chinese State media.
China Backed Lanka
China had earlier strongly backed Sri Lanka over the Core Group’s draft resolution on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and the war crimes charges against its armed forces.
Chinese envoy Chen Xu had said: “The proposed targeted sanctions contained in the OHCHR’s report are clear interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka and exceed the mandate of the OHCHR. We hope that the HRC and the OHCHR will strictly follow impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity and non-politicisation principles, respect the sovereignty and political independence of all nations, respect the efforts of the nations for the protection and promotion of human rights, advocate constructive dialogue and cooperation, and abandon the practice of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and exerting political pressure.”
UN View on Uighurs
Draft UN experts and activists claim that one million Muslim Uighurs are detained in camps in Xinjiang Province. Last week, UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet decried the ill-treatment of the community and demanded access into the region.
In February, the Dutch Parliament passed a non-binding motion saying the treatment of the Muslim Uighur minority in China amounted to genocide, the first such move by a European country.
Chinese Envoy Reprimanded
During Thursday’s Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur, China was reprimanded by the Chair for using its time to launch a scathing attack on Shaheed. The Chinese Delegation said Shaheed had relied “only on BBC and New York Times” to slander and smear China.
The Special Rapporteur was “wantonly” spreading false information, the Chinese representative said, adding that Shaheed lacked “basic professional ethics and serves as a political tool for Western countries”.
The Chair said: “I would like to remind the speaker that I cannot allow derogatory or inflammatory remarks to be made against a special rapporteur. That is not allowed by the rules. No personal attacks should be made.”
Ahmed Shaheed’s Report
Introducing his damning report about Islamophobia world over at the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday, Shaheed said institutional suspicion and fear of Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim have escalated to “epidemic proportions.”
The UN Special Rapporteur said that “numerous” States, regional and international bodies were to blame. In a report to the Council, he cited European surveys in 2018 and 2019 that showed that nearly four in 10 people held unfavourable views about Muslims.
In 2017, 30% of Americans viewed Muslims “in a negative light”, the Special Rapporteur added.