China has denied allegations that its UN peacekeepers had "abandoned their posts" and failed to do their job of protecting civilians during intense clashes in July in South Sudan, the Chinese defence ministry said.
A US-based rights group, Center for Civilians in Conflict (Civic), published a report last week claiming that some Chinese peacekeepers, who are part of a United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), had refused to help when foreign aid workers were attacked and raped in a hotel close to a UN base.
South Sudan's capital Juba had come under attack after fighting between rival forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebel leader and former vice president Riek Machar escalated in July. Two of the Chinese troops were killed in the attack when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded near a Chinese armoured personnel carrier. More than 300 civilians were also killed.
The Civic report claimed that the Chinese troops had abandoned their post "entirely" at one civilian protection centre where tens of thousands of civilians were reported to have sought protection from the relentless violence. It said the personnel left their weapons and ammunition behind.
Yang Yujun, spokesman for China's Ministry of Defence called the Civic report "malicious speculation", Reuters reported. He said Chinese peacekeepers acted as per instructions given to them by the UNMISS and carried out their responsibilities.
"Chinese peacekeeping officers and soldiers remained at their posts, quickly organising reinforcements and continuing to implement the mandate of UNMISS while rescuing wounded soldiers," Yang said.
He added that while the UN was investigating the performance of its peacekeepers, it was "irresponsible" to make "unwarranted accusations" before the UN publishes its findings.
Meanwhile, outgoing UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said Kiir's government is not taking enough action to deploy additional troops as it had promised. During a UN Security Council meeting in September, Kiir had agreed to accept 4,000 extra peacekeepers in the city, and also allow around 12,000 peacekeepers who are already in the group to move around freely in a bid to protect civilians and to avoid an arms embargo.
Ban said while these measures, if implemented, "would help alleviate some of the sufferings of the people of South Sudan, they will not resolve the conflict".
Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda had agreed to provide peacekeepers for the 4,000-strong regional protection force, but the government of the world's youngest nation is yet to give its approval, Ban added.