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Qatar becomes first Muslim country to withdraw support over China's treatment of Uighur

Uighurs in Turkey protest against China's human rights abuses [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 August, 2019

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Qatar has withdrawn its signature from a letter signed by 37 mostly Muslim countries defending China’s treatment of its Uighur population and said it would adopt a 'neutral stance'.

Qatar has withdrawn its signature from a letter signed by 37 countries supporting China's human rights record in Xinjiang, Bloomberg News reported today.

Thirty-seven, mostly Muslim countries - including Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Pakistan signed the letter defending China - which has incarcerated nearly 2 million Muslims in concentration camps.

It was sent to the UN Human Rights Council in response to another document denouncing China’s treatment of the Uighurs, signed by 22 majority non-Muslim countries, such as Australia, Japan, and New Zealand.

Qatar said that it would now adopt a "neutral stance" towards the Uighur issue.

"Taking into account our focus on compromise and mediation, we believe that co-authorizing the aforementioned letter would compromise our foreign policy key priorities," Qatar’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Ali Al-Mansouri write UN Human Rights Council President Coly Seck on 18 July according to Bloomberg.

"In this regard, we wish to maintain a neutral stance and we offer our mediation and facilitation services," he added. Mansouri’s signature also appeared on the July 12 letter defending China.

The letter dismissed reports of China’s continued persecution of Uighurs in Xinjiang, where millions of Uighur Muslims have been held in what China terms "re-education camps".

Human rights groups say it is more apt to describe them as "concentration camps".

Muslims in the centres have been separated from their families and compelled to eat pork, drink alcohol, and adopt elements of Han Chinese culture as part of their "re-education".

There have been reports of torture in the camps as well as the forced sterilisation of women.

The letter from the 22 non-Muslim countries called for China to end its "mass arbitrary detentions" of Uighur Muslims.

Many Muslim countries have strong economic relations with China and this has been a determining factor in Muslim countries' defence of China on the Xinjiang issue.

Some also believe criticising China's human rights abuses could expose their own poor human rights records to international scrutiny.

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