Canada expresses concern about Xinjiang rights to local leaders

Illustration shows printed Chinese and Canada flags

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's ambassador to Beijing visited the region of Xinjiang last week and expressed concerns about human rights violations directly to local leaders, the Canadian foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

A 2022 report by the then U.N. human rights chief said China's treatment of Uyghurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority in Xinjiang, in the country's far west, could constitute crimes against humanity. Beijing denies the allegations.

Ambassador Jennifer May visited Xinjiang from June 19-22, the first such visit by a Canadian envoy in a decade.

"(This) served as an opportunity to communicate Canadian concerns about the human rights situation directly to the leadership of Xinjiang," the ministry statement said.

"Ambassador May raised concerns over credible reports of systematic violations of human rights occurring in Xinjiang affecting Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities, including those raised by U.N. experts," it continued.

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa was not immediately available for comment.

May visited Xinjiang a few weeks after Canada said it had warned China against meddling in its elections. In April, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Beijing had tried to interfere in the last two national votes, a charge China dismissed.

Campaign groups on Saturday urged U.N. human rights chief Volker Turk to take more action over what they said were documented abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslims.

May also reiterated Canada's calls for China to allow U.N. independent experts unfettered access to all regions of China, the statement said. Canada, like the United States, has imposed sanctions on individuals and entities over alleged rights abuses in Xinjiang.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Diane Craft)