In an unprecedented letter seen by Reuters, ambassadors from 22 countries voiced their concerns about reports of unlawful detention in "large-scale places of detention, as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly targeting Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang".
They issued a joint letter to the UN Human Rights Council earlier this month.
However, the joint letter carries less diplomatic weight than a formal statement read out at the council, or a United Nations resolution submitted for a vote. This was due to governments' fears of a potential political and economic backlash from China, diplomats said.
The joint statement comes as the Xinjiang region marks the tenth year since the eruption of ethnic clashes that killed about 200 people.
"The Chinese side expressed strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition", Geng said, adding that China had registered "solemn complaints" with the countries involved.
They are demanding that China allow independent worldwide observers into the Xinjiang region, where the camps are located. On the contrary, as a Council member, China must uphold the highest standards in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, and fully cooperate with the Council.
It also called on China to stop arbitrary detention and allow "freedom of movement of Uighurs and other Muslim and minority communities in Xinjiang".
Dolkun Isa, president of the Munich-based rights group World Uyghur Congress, expressed appreciation to the 22 nations and said that the joint letter showed that "China has failed to deceive the worldwide community with its lies by bringing Erkin Tuniyaz to whitewash its repressive policies", according to Radio Free Asia. A United Nations spokeswoman said at the time that the trip, including "full access to Xinjiang", was under discussion.
Beijing is reportedly holding one million people as captives in the confinement camps in the Xinjiang province.
No Western delegation was willing to take the lead and expose itself as a "ringleader" through a joint statement or resolution, diplomats said.
Beijing says it's fighting terrorism by offering vocational training to people influenced by extremist thinking.
Diplomats rarely send open letters to the 47-member council to criticize a country's record, but the move may have been the only available option to spotlight Xinjiang, with China likely having enough support to vote down a formal resolution.
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