UN says China may have committed crimes against humanity in Xinjiang

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China’s “arbitrary and discriminatory arrests” of Uyghurs and other Muslims in the Xinjiang region may amount to crimes against humanity, the outgoing United Nations human rights chief said in a report on Wednesday. long awaited.

United Nations High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, who has faced criticism from some diplomats and human rights groups for being too soft on China, released the report minutes before her four-year term ended on Wednesday. Bachelet visited China in May.

The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) stated in its 48-page report that “serious human rights violations” have been committed in Xinjiang “in the context of the government’s implementation of counter-terrorism and anti-‘extremism’ strategies”.

“The magnitude of the arbitrary and discriminatory arrests of members of the Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim groups (…) may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity,” the UN publication noted.

The office recommended that the Chinese government take swift action to release all detainees in so-called “training centers,” prisons or detention centers.

“There are credible indications of reproductive rights violations through the coercive application of family planning policies since 2017,” the report stated.

He added that the lack of data from the country’s government “makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the full extent of the current application of these policies and the associated violations of reproductive rights.”

Human rights groups accuse Beijing of abuses against the Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority of some 10 million people in the western region of Xinjiang, including the massive use of forced labor in internment camps. The United States has accused China of genocide.

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China has strongly denied any abuse in Xinjiang and has published a 131-page response to the UN report.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called the report “completely illegal and invalid.”

“This shows once again that the OHCHR has become a bully and an accomplice of the US and the West,” he said during a daily press conference in Beijing on Thursday, repeatedly asked about the report. .

Before the report’s release, China’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York Zhang Jun said that Beijing had repeatedly opposed the document. He pointed out that the UN human rights chief should not interfere in China’s internal affairs.

“We all know very well that the so-called Xinjiang issue is a completely politically motivated lie and its purpose is undoubtedly to undermine China’s stability and obstruct its development,” Zhang told reporters on Wednesday.

“We don’t think this report will do anyone any good, it just undermines the cooperation between the United Nations and a member state,” Zhang told reporters on Wednesday.

Bachelet said her report required “considerable work and revision” and that she wanted to treat the Chinese government’s input last week in a spirit of constructive dialogue.

“Dialogue and engagement are about trying to build trust — gradually — even when it seems unlikely. My own experience in Chile showed me the value of this approach,” he said.

“To be totally honest, the politicization of these serious human rights issues by some states did not help,” she added. “They made the task more difficult, they made it difficult to engage and they made it difficult to build trust and the ability to really have an impact on the ground.”

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Dilxat Raxit of the World Uyghur Congress, an international organization of Uyghur groups in exile, said the report confirmed “strong evidence of atrocities” against Uyghurs, but wished it had gone further.

“I regret that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has not characterized these extreme atrocities committed in China as genocide,” he told Reuters in an email.

Reuters reported last month that China had asked Bachelet to file this report, according to a Chinese letter that was confirmed by diplomats.

Bachelet confirmed last week that she had received the letter which, according to her, was signed by some 40 other states and added that her office would not respond to such pressure.

Bachelet, 70, plans to return to Chile to retire. He has not yet designated a successor.

“Frankly, publishing this report at a time when she is leaving minimizes this information,” Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch told Reuters, before it was published. “By issuing it and running away she’s resigning, she’s not doing anything with it, (she’s) just throwing it in the bin and leaving office.”

Nonetheless, Human Rights Watch called the report groundbreaking.

“The victims and their families, long vilified by the Chinese government, have finally had their persecution recognized and can now look to the UN and its member states to act to hold those responsible to account,” said John Fisher, its deputy director of global defense.

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