China underwent rare scrutiny of its human rights record at the United Nations on Tuesday.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which all UN member states must undergo every five years, focused on Xinjiang, a remote region where China has incarcerated more than 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities and is accused of crimes against humanity.
The political situation in Hong Kong, where Beijing has imposed a strict set of "security" laws, was also taken into consideration.
More than 160 countries addressed the hearing in Geneva, Switzerland, and each only had 45 seconds to speak.
China once again denied any allegations of human rights abuses.
"We embarked on a path of human rights development that is in keeping with the trend of the times and appropriate to China's national conditions and scored historic achievements in this process," China's UN Ambassador Chen Xu said through an interpreter at the meeting.
Uyghur and Tibetan groups each held small protests outside the UN offices in Geneva.
Western countries slam Beijing
Canada's representative to the UN, Leslie Norton, called on China to end "all forms of enforced disappearances targeting human rights defenders, ethnic minorities and Falun Gong practitioners" and to repeal the controversial security law in Hong Kong.
Danish UN ambassador Ib Petersen called on Beijing to implement UN recommendations in Xinjiang and to "release writers, bloggers, journalists, human rights defenders and others arbitrarily detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and guarantee this right, including in Hong Kong."
Meanwhile, Czech ambassador Vaclav Balek also urged China to "end the criminalization of religious and peaceful civil expression by ethnic and religious groups — including Muslim, Uyghurs and Buddhists, Tibetans and Mongolians — under the pretext of protecting state security" and "stop cross-border kidnappings and intimidating Chinese citizens living abroad."
Germany, Japan and Ireland also called for better protections of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet.
Praise for China
Diplomats told Reuters news agency that China had pressured its supporters to fill up their allotted speaking time with praise.
First secretary Ilia Barmin of Russia's diplomatic mission advised China "to consistently improve the understanding and capacity of citizens to use standard spoken and written Chinese in Xinjiang."
South Africa's political affairs counselor Frankye Bronwen Levy called on China to strengthen laws against domestic violence that were introduced eight years ago.
The Indian representative, meanwhile, urged Beijing to "continue taking steps to ensure fullest enjoyment of basic human rights by its people, through inclusive and sustainable development."
Some African countries like Ethiopia and Cameroon lauded China's efforts on human rights.
Eritrea's representative for instance urged China to "to comprehensively promote ethnic unity and progress."
Iran also praised China's "national action plan for human rights," while Bolivia commended China's efforts against deforestation.
zc/wmr (Reuters, AP, AFP)