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UN committee urges China to free Xinjiang detainees, recommends reparations

FILE PHOTO: A woman cooks in her house next to the remnants of other houses, demolished as part of a building renovation campaign in the old district of Kashgar, in Xinjiang province August 3, 2011. Picture taken August 3, 2011. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

A United Nations committee urged China on Thursday to release people held in detention facilities in its Xinjiang region and recommended that it provide victims with "remedies and reparation".

The committee's statement adds to pressure on China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, to enact reforms following a report from the global body's human rights chief in August which said its treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslims may constitute crimes against humanity.

Rights groups accuse Beijing of abuses against Uyghurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority that numbers around 10 million in Xinjiang, including the mass use of forced labour in internment camps. China denies any rights abuses.

Its spokesperson at the diplomatic mission in Geneva, Liu Yuyin, said Beijing firmly opposes the U.N. committee's move, saying it "smears and slanders China's human rights situation based on disinformation fabricated by Western countries and anti-China separatist forces".

The 18-member committee regularly monitors countries' compliance with a 1965 international convention on racial discrimination which China and some 180 other countries are party to.

The committee said the "lack of improvement in the human rights situation in Xinjiang" spurred it to adopt the recommendations, known as a decision.

The document also called for China to "undertake a full review of its legal framework governing national security, counter terrorism and minority rights in (Xinjiang)" to ensure compliance with the convention.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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