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UN reports condemns Xinjian human rights abuses

15 September 20220 comments

China’s arbitrary detention of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minority groups in the western region of Xinjiang may amount to “crimes against humanity”, outgoing UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet has said in a new report.

The damning report, was issued just 11 minutes before her term ended.

The Chinese government, which attempted until the last moment to stop the publication of the report, rejected it as an anti-China smear, while Uyghur human rights groups hailed it as a turning point in the international response to the programme of mass incarceration.

Michelle Bachelet

The 45-page report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded: “The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups, pursuant to law and policy, in context of restrictions and deprivation more generally of fundamental rights enjoyed individually and collectively, may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”

Rights groups have accused China of systemically oppressing Uyghurs, carried out through widespread abuses, including mass incarceration, forced labour, torture and sexual assault.

The long-awaited report, published despite pressure from Beijing, seeks “urgent attention” from the world community to rights violations in the in the Communist government’s drive against alleged terrorism in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

It pointed out that the violations stem from a domestic “anti-terrorism law system” that contains vague and open-ended concepts that are deeply problematic from the perspective of international human rights norms.

“The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups … may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity,” the report said.

The report cites “patterns of torture” inside the alleged “vocational training centres” that Beijing claims were of its reputed plan to boost economic development in the region.

It also found credible allegations of torture or ill-treatment, including cases of sexual violence and “violations of reproductive rights through the coercive enforcement of family planning policies”.

Ms Bachelet was criticised for allegedly being too soft on China during her visit to Xinjiang in May.

The report made a swathe of recommendations, including that: China “takes prompt steps to release all individuals arbitrarily deprived of their liberty; urgently clarifies the whereabouts of individuals whose families have been seeking information about their loved ones in XUAR, including by providing details of their exact locations and establishing safe channels of communication and travel enabling families to reunite; and, undertakes a full review of the legal framework governing national security, counter-terrorism and minority rights in XUAR to ensure their compliance with binding international human rights law.”

The recommendations also include that: “China, and urgently repeal all discriminatory laws, policies and practices against Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities in XUAR; promptly investigates allegations of human rights violations in VETCs and other detention facilities, including allegations of torture, sexual violence, ill-treatment, forced medical treatment, as well as forced labour and reports of deaths in custody.”

The recommendations include: that “China provides adequate remedy and reparation to victims of human rights violations; clarifies the reports of destruction of mosques, shrines and cemeteries by providing data and information and suspend all such activities in the meantime; and, ceases immediately all intimidation and reprisals against Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities abroad in connection with their advocacy, and their family members in XUAR…”