7 hours ago
The United Nations believes China has committed “serious human rights violations” against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province. The agency has released a long-awaited report on the matter.
China urged the UN not to release the report. Beijing called it a “farce” orchestrated by Western powers.
The report examines allegations of torture against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities, which China denies.
What does the UN report say?
Investigators said they found “acceptable evidence” of torture, which likely amounted to “crimes against humanity”.
They accused China of using a vague national security law to suppress the rights of minorities and establishing an “arbitrary detention system”.
The report was commissioned by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Detainees were subjected to criminal treatment, including “instances of sexual and gender-based violence,” the report said.
Some were subjected to forced “discriminatory application of family planning and birth control policies.”
The UN recommended that China take immediate steps to “release all persons deprived of their liberty”. The UN says some of Beijing’s actions could amount to “international crimes, including crimes against humanity”.
The UN, however, said it could not confirm how many people the Chinese government has detained. Human rights groups estimate that more than 100,000 people are being held in camps in the Xinjiang region of northeastern China. The UN said it could include non-Muslims.
About one million Uighur Muslims live in Xinjiang.
Several countries have previously described China’s actions in Xinjiang as genocide.
Beijing saw the report before it was published and denied any allegations of torture. China has argued that these camps are a tool to fight terrorism
Michelle Bachelet’s report was released on the last day of her four-year term as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Allegations of torture against Uyghurs dominated throughout his tenure.
More than a year ago, his office indicated that an investigation into the alleged massacre in Xinjiang was underway.
But the publication of the report was delayed several times. That led some Western human rights groups to charge that Beijing was asking Beijing to suppress some serious allegations from the report.
Even in the last few hours of the report’s release, China pressured Miz Bachelet not to release it.
At a press conference last Thursday, he admitted that he was under “great pressure to release or not release” the report.
But he argued about the report’s late release, saying talking to Beijing about the report did not mean he “pretended not to see” its content.
Criticism from human rights groups
Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch, said the findings of the report show “why the Chinese government has fought to prevent the release of the report”.
“The UN Human Rights Council should use this report to launch a comprehensive investigation into the Chinese government’s crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and others and hold those responsible accountable,” he said.
Sophie Richardson added, “They are counting on you to investigate the extent of abuse that Uighurs and other victims have faced.”
“If you don’t stand up for the oppressed, who will?”
Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard condemned the delay in releasing the report, calling it “inexcusable”.
“The Chinese government must face accountability for crimes against humanity. Those responsible must be identified and brought to justice,” said Miz Callamard.
The BBC obtained some of the leaked documents earlier this year, which revealed cases of gang-rape, sexual abuse and torture of Uighur Muslims.
The documents, dubbed the ‘Xinjiang Police File’, were leaked to the BBC and reveal that orders to target the Uyghur community came from the highest levels – from Chinese leader Xi Jinping himself – to target the Uyghur community.
In 2020, then-UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused China of “serious and heinous” human rights abuses against its Muslim population after a video emerged of Uyghurs being blindfolded on a train.
After the video was released, there was widespread outrage in the international arena. Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show at the time, Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the UK, insisted that “there is no such concentration camp in Xinjiang”.
What is China saying?
China has always denied allegations of human rights abuses in its Xinjiang province.
Responding to the ‘Xinjiang Police Files’, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson told the BBC that the documents were “the latest example of anti-China sentiment and efforts to belittle China”.
He said Xinjiang has stability and prosperity, and its residents are living happily.
China says the operation in Xinjiang is essential to countering terrorism and rooting out Islamic extremism, and that the camps are an effective tool for reforming prisoners of war on terrorism.
China insists that Uyghur militants have planned bombings, sabotage and civil unrest to wage a violent campaign against an independent state. However, China is accused of exaggerating these threats to justify the repression of Uyghurs.
China has described as “baseless” and “completely fabricated” allegations that artificial sterilization methods are being forced on the Uyghur community to reduce their population.