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China will be attacked by the West at the UN for mistreating Uyghur Muslims, and Beijing will have just 45 seconds to respond.

China underwent scrutiny of its human rights record at a key UN meeting on Tuesday, with Western countries calling for more protections for Xinjiang Uyghurs and greater freedom in Hong Kong, while Beijing said it had made historic progress. The review at the UN in Geneva is the first since the global body’s top rights official released a report in 2022 saying the detention of Uyghurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region may constitute crimes against humanity. Beijing denies any abuses.
China has been lobbying non-Western countries to praise its human rights record ahead of the meeting by sending memos to envoys in recent weeks, diplomats told Reuters.

China’s diplomatic mission did not comment on the reported lobbying. Its delegation in Geneva said on Tuesday it had made progress since its last U.N. review in 2018, saying it had lifted nearly 100 million people out of poverty.

“We embarked on a path of human rights development that is in keeping with the trend of the times and appropriate to China’s national conditions and scored historic achievements in this process,” said Ambassador Chen Xu at the meeting. Some 163 countries are set to speak at the Tuesday session and countries had only 45 seconds each to speak.

Many countries lauded China’s efforts on human rights, including Ethiopia and Cameroon. Western countries raised concerns including Germany, which cited human rights violations in Xinjiang and Tibet, and Canada which called for China to repeal a controversial Hong Kong national security law.

Eric Chan, Hong Kong’s chief secretary, praised the law. “The days of social disturbance and fear are now over. Stability as well as law and order has been restored and our city is back on track,” he told the UN meeting. Amnesty International’s Sarah Brooks said the meeting risked working as a “fig leaf” for China and countries pursuing closer ties with Beijing. A protest is planned later on Tuesday outside the UN building with Tibetan, Uyghur and Hong Kong activists and Chinese dissidents. Another advocacy group aims to speak out against the forced repatriation from China of women from North Korea who fled the nation under leader Kim Jong Un’s rule.

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