Saudi Arabia yesterday defended signing a letter supporting China’s practices in Xinjiang province, where authorities detain 1 million Uyghur Muslims in “re-education” camps. Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the UN Abdallah Al-Mouallimi claimed that the letter — which Saudi Arabia signed last week alongside 36 other countries — only focuses on China’s developmental work. (See full transcript below)

“Once again, nobody can be more concerned about the status of Muslims anywhere in the world than Saudi Arabia and these countries out here. What we have said in that letter is that we support the developmental policies of China that have lifted people out of poverty,” Al-Mouallimi said during an informal meeting with the press.

The statement was delivered alongside Yemen’s Ambassador to the UN Abdullah Al-Saadi, the UAE’s Chargé D’Affaires to the UN Saud Alshamsi, and the Arab League’s representative to the UN Maged Abdelaziz.

“The letter talks about China’s developmental work. That’s all it talks about. It does not address anything else,” Al-Mouallimi added.

After reiterating Saudi support for China, Al-Mouallimi ignored questions from journalists about the letter’s claims that China safeguards human rights for ethnic minorities.

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Journalist: “… to the Human Rights Council supporting China holding Muslims in these camps. Saudi Arabia, UAE signed this letter. Your allies in the United States have condemned these actions, but you seem to be standing behind China?”

Saudi Arabia: “Once again, once again, once again, nobody can be more concerned about the status of Muslims anywhere in the world than Saudi Arabia and these countries out here. What we have said in that letter is that we support the developmental policies of China that have lifted people out of poverty.”

Journalist: “I don’t think China has spent a lot on development in Xi Jung as you mention, but you don’t see it as a concern that they are holding up to a million people in a camp without a trial? It’s not a humanitarian issue?”

Saudi Arabia: “No, I was just addressing your question on the letter. The letter said that we appreciate the developmental work that is taking place in China, which is lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”

Journalist: “Just as a follow up to that, some countries have been a little critical, though, that Saudi Arabia signed that letter, given that most of these people who are in these centers are Muslim. What would you say to that?”

Saudi Arabia: “Well, again, I will repeat the same thing that I have said: the letter talks about China’s developmental work. That’s all it talks about. It does not address anything else.”

Journalist: “The letter says that human rights are safeguarded for ethnic minorities in China.”

Saudi Arabia: “Alright, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. We appreciate it.”

Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the UN, addresses the press at a UN Security Council stakeout.

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