Humanists UK and British Muslims for Secular Democracy speak out at UN against Chinese persecution of Uighurs

21 September, 2020

Humanists UK and British Muslims for Secular Democracy have made a joint intervention today at the UN Human Rights Council, in which they have spoken out against the Chinese persecution of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang Province, and asked if the reports of mass imprisonment and horrendous human rights abuses meet the legal definition of genocide.

The intervention was made by video by Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson, during the plenary Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances. In his comments, he said:

‘The United Nations human rights programme, of which this Council is is a key part, arose out of the abuses of the Second World War and the Holocaust with a singular commitment: that never again should we see the mass internment of, or attempts to a eradicate, a group of people on the basis of their ethnicity or religion.

‘And yet, there have been reports of Uighurs being blindfolded, forced on to trains, imprisoned, shaved, denied the right to practice their religion, and subjected to forced abortions and sterilisations, among many more examples of abuses. It is estimated that up to one million Uighur people are currently interned in camps across the region.

‘There can be no claim of national security or sovereignty to justify such treatment, and it is unacceptable that China has denied the Working Group access to these facilities despite requests being issued every year since 2014. I ask the Working Group what further steps can be taken to inspect and report on the internments in Xinjiang in the face of China’s continued refusal to engage with this Council, and does the Working Group take a view on whether such treatment meets the legal definition of genocide?’

Last month, Andrew joined over 75 faith leaders in issuing a united call for China to end all such persecution.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 020 3675 0959.

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