Ethnic Uighur people walk in front of a giant screen with a picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping in the main city square in Kashgar in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China Sept. 6, 2018. (Thomas Peter/REUTERS)

Canada warns travelers of risk of ‘arbitrary detention’ in China’s Xinjiang

The federal government is warning Canadians with “familial or ethnic ties” to China’s Xinjiang region that they “may be at risk of arbitrary detention” when travelling there.

The warning comes in an update to travel advice for Canadians visiting China published by Global Affairs Canada on Sunday.

The document warns Canadians that local authorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region “have put in place invasive security measures.”

Chinese authorities are increasingly detaining ethnic and Muslim minorities in the region without due process, the travel advisory says.

“There are reports of extrajudicial internment and forced labour camps,” the advisory says. “Family members of Canadian citizens with Chinese citizenship have been detained. You may be at risk of arbitrary detention if you have familial or ethnic ties to the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.”

The situation in the region is tense and accurate information is hard to obtain, the advisory adds, warning that Chinese authorities may impose curfews and restrictions on short notice.

The advisory warns Canadians in Xinjiang to avoid gatherings and demonstrations, always carry identification papers with them, expect a heightened security presence and frequent security checks and expect significant travel delays.

On Feb. 22, Canada’s Parliament voted to formally label China’s human rights abuses against the Uighurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.

In March Canada joined the U.S, the EU, and Britain by imposing sanctions on four Chinese officials and one entity in response “to the repression of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said “mounting evidence points to systemic, state-led human rights violations by Chinese authorities” targetting Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

“This includes the mass arbitrary detention of more than one million Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities on the basis of their religion and ethnicity, as well as political re-education, forced labour, torture and forced sterilization,” Garneau said in a statement.

On Monday, Chinese officials held a press briefing in Beijing to expose “malicious fabrications” about alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, which they described as “despicable underhand ploys” to smear China’s international image and justify anti-China Western sanctions.

Chinese officials accused Western academics, experts and human rights groups of fabricating evidence of human rights abuses in Xinjiang by “wantonly manipulating deceptive tricks such as concoction, loose accusation, presumptuous speculation, tampering, grafting, far-fetched correlation and out-of-context interpretation.”

“Most of the ‘victims’ are fabricated from thin air and their identity information is proved inaccurate,” said Xu Guixiang, a high ranking judicial official from Xinjiang.

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