China’s ‘arbitrary and discriminatory’ detention of members of Uyghurs and other Muslim communities in Xinjiang region could amount to crimes against humanity, says outgoing UN high commissioner for human rights in a long-awaited report, published on Wednesday August 31.
It was time. Michelle Bachelet, who has come under criticism from some diplomats and activists for a stance deemed too conciliatory with Beijing, unveiled the report just minutes before the end of her four-year term.
“Serious human rights violations may have been committed” in Xinjiang as part of the Chinese government’s implementation of “strategies to combat terrorism and ‘extremism’”, is written in the 48-page document following Michelle Bachelet’s visit to China, last May, after long months of negotiations.
“Crimes Against Humanity”
“The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of the Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim groups (…) could constitute international crimes, particularly crimes against humanity”the report adds.
Michelle Bachelet urges the Chinese government to take quick action to release all those detained in what Beijing presents as training centers, in prisons and in detention centers.
According to the investigation by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, credible evidence suggests that “violations of reproductive rights have been committed through the coercive implementation of family planning policies since 2017”.
Beijing is accused by activists of abuse – including mass forced labor in internment camps – against the Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic minority made up of around 10 million inhabitants in the Xinjiang region in western China.
The United States accused China of genocide. These accusations have been vigorously rejected by Beijing. China’s diplomatic mission in Geneva denounced a “farce” orchestrated by the United States, Western countries and anti-China powers and based on false information and a presumption of guilt.
“Proofs of Atrocity”
Ahead of the release of the report, China’s ambassador to the United Nations repeated theopposition from beijingnoting that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should not interfere in the internal affairs of the country.
“We all know very well that the so-called Xinjiang problem is a completely politically-motivated lie and is definitely aimed at undermine China’s stability and obstruct China’s development,” Zhang Jun told reporters.
“It’s not going to do anyone any good. It just harms cooperation between the United Nations and a member state,” he added. Foreign-based World Uyghur Congressman Dilxat Raxit said the report confirmed “strong evidence of atrocities” against the Uyghurs but lamented that he did not go further.
“I regret that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has not characterized these extreme atrocities in China as genocide,” he wrote to Reuters in an email.
Pressure against report output
Reuters reported in July that China had asked Michelle Bachelet to “bury” the report, according to a letter whose authenticity had been confirmed by diplomats. Michelle Bachelet confirmed last week that she had received a Chinese letter signed by about forty other states, according to her, and assured that her services did not give in to such pressure.
The 70-year-old former president of Chile now plans to return to her native country. Many candidates have positioned themselves to take over from him, but none have yet been chosen by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres – the appointment must then be approved by the United Nations General Assembly.
“Frankly, releasing the report as she walks through the exit door minimizes the report,” a Human Rights Watch representative told Reuters before the document was released. “By posting and leaking, she’s giving up, she’s not doing anything with it, she’s kind of throwing it in the trash can and quitting her post,” Kenneth Roth continued. The NGO, however, described the report as groundbreaking.
“Victims and their families … have their persecution recognized, and can now look to the UN and its member states to take action to hold those responsible to account,” said John Fisher, deputy director of Human Rights. Watch.