WASHINGTON -- The United States and Germany voiced grave concerns Tuesday (May 24) as new files on the incarceration of China's Uighur Muslim minority revealed "shocking" allegations of rights abuses.
The evidence shows the abuse was likely approved at the highest levels in Beijing, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
"We are appalled by the reports and the jarring images," he told reporters.
"It would be very difficult to imagine that a systemic effort to suppress, to detain, to conduct a campaign of genocide and crimes against humanity would not have the blessing -- would not have the approval -- of the highest levels of the PRC government," he said, referring to the People's Republic of China.
China's Communist Party is accused of detaining over one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking people in the far-western region as part of a years-long crackdown the United States, other countries and human rights activists have labelled a "genocide".
"We have and we continue to call on the PRC to immediately release all those arbitrarily detained people, to abolish the internment camps, to end mass detention, torture, forced sterilisation and the use of forced labour," Price said.
Adrian Zenz, an academic who has probed the treatment of the Uighurs, published a leak of thousands of photos and official documents that shed new light on violent methods to enforce mass internment.
Several media outlets published the leaked documents called the Xinjiang Police Files which appear to show thousands of photographs from inside Xinjiang's system of mass incarceration, including many detained Uighurs.
The youngest was only 15 at the time of her detention, say the reports.
The files, parts of which have been verified by multiple news organisations including the BBC and Le Monde, also provide a window into life in detention facilities.
Photos appear to show officers restraining hooded and shackled inmates with batons, while other guards wearing camouflage stand by with firearms.
The release comes just as United Nations (UN) human rights chief Michelle Bachelet started a visit to China.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a tweet that Bachelet "must take a hard look at these faces and press Chinese officials for full, unfettered access -- and answers".
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also "called for a transparent investigation" into the allegations, her ministry said in a statement.
In a phone call with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, Baerbock pointed to "the shocking reports and new evidence of very serious human rights violations in Xinjiang", the statement said.
A police database obtained by AFP earlier this month listed the names and details of thousands of detained Uighurs.
Arab and Islamic countries and blocs must unify their position on China's repression of Muslims in Xinjiang and make a greater effort in brining the horrors to an end, clerics and academics in the Middle East have said.
Muslim clerics said the best way to deter the Chinese government from continuing its mistreatment of the Uighurs is to organise grassroots campaigns and boycott Chinese goods.
Arab countries also must take a collective stance, through organisations and blocs such as the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) and the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), to condemn China's repressive practices against its Muslim minority, they said.
"From a religious point of view, the duty of a Muslim is to support and help his Muslim brother if the latter is the victim of oppression," said Al-Azhar cleric Nayef Abd Rabbu, a professor of sharia and law at Al-Azhar University.
"China has extensive [economic] interests in the Middle East, in Islamic countries in particular," said Umm al-Qura University professor of comparative jurisprudence Abdullah al-Muqrin.
Countries could use this as leverage to pressure the Chinese government to back down from its actions towards Muslims, he said.
Al-Muqrin stressed the effectiveness of popular protests and the use of social media to share news of oppression against Chinese Muslims in pressuring governments to take a stance against China's actions.
"The positions of individual countries may not bring any significant result, unlike collective action by groups such as the OIC and the GCC," he added.