In Final Minutes of Term, UN Commissioner Releases Uighur Report

In it, UN accuses China of serious human rights violations
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 1, 2022 8:59 AM CDT
That UN Finally Released Uighur Report Is a Big Deal
Guard towers stand on the perimeter wall of the Urumqi No. 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in western China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021.   (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

The UN accused China of serious human rights violations that may amount to "crimes against humanity" in a long-delayed report examining a crackdown on Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups. Beijing on Thursday denounced the assessment, which was released late Wednesday, as a fabrication cooked up by Western nations. For several years, human rights groups have accused China of sweeping a million or more people from the minority groups into detention camps in a ruthless campaign against extremism that has struck fear into large segments of the population in the far western province of Xinjiang.

The assessment from the Geneva-based UN human rights office largely corroborated earlier reporting by researchers, advocacy groups, and the news media, and it added the weight of the world body to the conclusions. But it was not clear what impact it would have, reports the AP. That the report was released was in some ways as important as its contents. There were repeated delays in releasing the document; many Geneva diplomats believe it was nearly complete a year ago. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said she had to resist pressure both to publish and not publish. The report was published just minutes before her four-year term officially ended on Aug 31.

Among its findings, which were drawn in part from interviews with former detainees and others familiar with conditions at eight detention centers:

  • The assessment concluded that China has committed serious human rights violations under its anti-terrorism and anti-extremism policies and calls for “urgent attention” from the UN, the world community, and China itself to address them.
  • The report said that descriptions of the detentions were marked by patterns of torture and other cruel and inhumane treatment and that allegations of rape and other sexual violence appeared credible.
  • “The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uighur and other predominantly Muslim groups ... in (the) context of restrictions and deprivation more generally of fundamental rights ... may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity,” the report said.
  • It made no mention of genocide, which some countries, including the United States, have accused China of committing in Xinjiang.
  • The rights office said it could not confirm estimates that a million or more people were detained in the internment camps in Xinjiang, but added it was “reasonable to conclude that a pattern of large-scale arbitrary detention occurred” at least between 2017 and 2019.
  • Beijing has closed many of the camps, which it called vocational training and education centers, but hundreds of thousands of people continue to languish in prison, many on vague, secret charges. The report called on China to release all individuals arbitrarily detained and to clarify the whereabouts of those who have disappeared and whose families are seeking information about them.
  • "The report is pretty damning, and a strong indictment on China's crimes against humanity," said Rayhan Asat, a Uighur lawyer whose brother is imprisoned in Xinjiang. "For years, the Chinese government has said the Uighurs are terrorists. Now, we can point to them and say, you’re the terrorists."

(More Uighurs stories.)

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