In a scathing report, the outgoing UN human rights chief confirmed that China has committed “serious human rights violations” against the Uyghur Muslim community, adding that such acts are potentially crimes against humanity.
Michelle Bachelet, who released the long-awaited 48-page report only 13 minutes before the end of her term on Wednesday evening, called on countries to stop repatriating Uyghurs to China, which her office said proceeded to large-scale arbitrary detention. in the Xinjiang region, resorted to tactics such as starvation and forced medical injection, and violated women’s reproductive rights.
“Serious human rights violations have been committed in XUAR in the context of the government’s implementation of counter-terrorism and ‘extremism’ strategies,” the UN office said in the statement. report, referring to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
“These human rights abuses… stem from a national ‘anti-terrorism law system’ which is deeply problematic from the perspective of international human rights norms and standards,” he added. .
Sometimes the UN report reads like an Orwellian novel. “Nearly all respondents described regular injections, pills or both, as well as regular blood samples taken from the [vocational education and training center] facilities. Respondents were consistent in their descriptions of how the medications given made them drowsy… None of the respondents were properly informed about these medical treatments.”
The report added: “Several women recounted being subjected to invasive gynecological examinations, including one woman who described it taking place in a group setting that ‘shamed old women and mourned young girls'”.
Beijing may have a case to answer in the international court, the office suggested. “The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of Uyghur members and other predominantly Muslim groups, in accordance with law and policy, in a context of restrictions and more generally deprivation of fundamental rights enjoyed individually and collectively, may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
The violations were religious and ethnic in nature, according to the report, which highlighted “profound, arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms, in violation of international norms and standards.”
“These damning findings explain why Beijing fought tooth and nail to prevent the publication of this report,” said Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch, an NGO.
China has rejected any claims of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, saying its policy in the region focuses on de-radicalization and counter-terrorism. In response to the report, China’s Permanent Mission to the UN office in Geneva said it “strongly opposes the release” of the report. “The so-called ‘assessment’ goes against the mandate” of the office, he said.
Some activists are unhappy with the report’s refusal to use the term “genocide”.
“In a final insult to Uyghur survivors, the report fails to mention the word genocide just once,” said Rahima Mahmut, a UK-based Uyghur activist. “You have to wonder what good is the UN if it can’t admit what is staring them straight in the face.”
The report is also ambivalent about forced labor, another issue of international concern. He says “there are indications” that work and employment programs “appear to be discriminatory in nature or effect and to involve elements of coercion”.