A senior Chinese diplomat has warned France not to “submit to the United States”, or it will risk losing dignity and respect. Zhang Jun, the ambassador to the United Nations, made the comments in response to a joint statement, signed by 43 mainly Western countries and read out by France at a UN meeting, that criticised China’s policies in Xinjiang , where it is accused of widespread human rights abuses . “To France and other followers of the US: what you are doing is submitting your independence and autonomy, and serving as the henchmen of the US, as if you can gain superiority by acting at the beck and call of the superpower. But the truth is, you are giving up your own dignity, and will win no respect from others,” Zhang said. Party’s picks to join Xinjiang leadership point to focus on security Zhang then hit back at France’s human rights record, saying it had killed civilians in the 2014 Operation Barkhane, an operation against Islamist insurgents in Africa’s Sahel region. He also said France evicted between 10,000 and 15,000 Romani people annually, added that Muslims living in the country face discrimination and observed that the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture had expressed concerns about prison overcrowding and conditions in police detention facilities. The statement criticising China’s policies in Xinjiang said: “We call on China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and her office. “We are particularly concerned about the situation in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region,” the statement said, citing “credible” reports that “indicate the existence of a large network of ‘political reeducation’ camps where over a million people have been arbitrarily detained”. The statement mentioned torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, forced sterilisation, sexual and gender-based violence and forced separation of children, which it said “disproportionately continues to target Uygurs and members of other minorities.” Zhang made his comments at a time when relations between France and the US have been strained by the Aukus pact , which saw Australia ditching a commitment to buy French submarines in return for US nuclear-powered ones. Paris has described the alliance as a “betrayal” , with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian saying “this is not something allies do to each other”. China holds firm on Xinjiang as Afghanistan poses security concerns Zhang did not mention the spat between France and the US, but said France was following the US in attacking China’s human rights record. He warned the “few” countries involved that “your plot to obstruct China’s development is doomed to fail”. “The world is developing and humankind is progressing. The US and a few other countries choose to stick to the wrong course, which goes against the prevailing trend of the times,” he said. “Eventually, they will only bring disgrace to themselves, and become the laughing stock of the international community and the sinners of history.” Xinjiang has been one of the main points of contention between China and the West, and a major investment deal between Beijing and the European Union has been stalled after a round of tit-for-tat sanctions between the two sides over the issue . Beijing has defended its actions in Xinjiang, saying they are designed to combat terrorism, religious extremism and separatism.