UN says crimes against humanity may have been committed in China’s Xinjiang region: NPR


This photo taken on May 31, 2019 shows a watchtower on a high-security facility near what is believed to be a re-education camp where mainly ethnic Muslim minorities are held, on the outskirts of Hotan in the region of Xinjiang, northwest China. As many as a million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities are thought to be held in a network of internment camps in Xinjiang.

Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images


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UN says crimes against humanity may have been committed in China's Xinjiang region: NPR

This photo taken on May 31, 2019 shows a watchtower on a high-security facility near what is believed to be a re-education camp where mainly ethnic Muslim minorities are held, on the outskirts of Hotan in the region of Xinjiang, northwest China. As many as a million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities are thought to be held in a network of internment camps in Xinjiang.

Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

The UN human rights chief released a long-delayed report on abuses in China’s Xinjiang region, despite substantial pressure from Beijing to block the report for much of a year.

The 48-page document concludes that “serious” human rights abuses have been committed against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in the region in the name of countering terrorism.

It also indicates that “the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention…may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity”.

The report comes as Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, served her last day in office, after announcing earlier that she was not seeking another term for “personal reasons”. .

Xinjiang, a huge resource-rich region in western China, is where authorities have since 2017 arbitrarily detained and imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, as well as other historically Muslim minorities such as the Hui. and the Kazakhs.

China initially denied detaining ethnic minorities, but later branded the detention camps and intensive digital surveillance and policing that cover the region as counter-terrorism and economic development initiatives.

However, former detainees in Xinjiang have described accounts of physical and mental torture in the region’s detention centers and an expanded prison network. Data leaks and whistleblower accounts have revealed internal Chinese government documents confirming the extralegal detention of ordinary Uyghurs and the prison conditions in which they are held and “re-educated” to be loyal to the Chinese state.

The UN said it interviewed dozens of people with direct, first-hand knowledge of the situation in Xinjiang, including 26 who said they had been detained or worked at “various facilities” in the region since 2016.

“Allegations of patterns of torture or ill-treatment, including forced medical treatment and poor prison conditions, are credible, as are allegations of individual incidents of sexual and gender-based violence,” the UN report said. .

He called on China to take a number of steps, including releasing the detainees, undertaking a comprehensive review of the legal framework for counterterrorism work in the region, investigating allegations of rights violations and providing “adequate remedy and reparation” to victims.

Prior to the report’s release, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun said Beijing was “strongly against” it.

“We all know so well that the so-called Xinjiang problem is a fabricated lie [made] for political reasons, and its purpose is certainly to undermine China’s stability and hinder China’s development,” he told reporters.

Bachelet, the former president of Chile, expressed a desire to visit the region herself after beginning her tenure as the top UN human rights official in 2018.

In May this year, she finally managed to travel to Xinjiang on a controversial six-day fact-finding mission, which rights activists have criticized for being highly staged by the authorities. Chinese. During the visit, she also held a video chat with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, a conversation in which Chinese media quoted her as praising the country’s human rights record.

“She expressed her admiration for China’s efforts and achievements in eradicating poverty, protecting human rights and achieving economic and social development,” according to a reading by the news agency. Chinese state official Xinhua.

But nearly 10 months after Bachelet floated the idea of ​​writing a report on human rights conditions in Xinjiang, his office had yet to finalize a date, baffling diplomats and activists.

Reuters reported earlier this summer that Chinese diplomats at the UN were circulating a petition pressuring other countries to help China bury the report.

And just this week, Bachelet appeared to backtrack on his commitment to publish the report, saying there was “tremendous pressure to publish or not to publish”. She said her office had received “substantial input” from China on the report, which they needed to review before publishing it.

Rights groups say China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, quickly developed coercive leverage within the multinational institution, in part to thwart a serious investigation into violations. human rights.

“China has introduced competing narratives to the UN that attempt to block or weaken UN resolutions on civil society and human rights,” said Maya Wang, senior China researcher at the within the advocacy group Human Rights Watch.

Michele Kelemen contributed reporting.


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