UN warns of possible ‘crimes against humanity’ in Xinjiang

The United Nations Human Rights Office has said China’s discriminatory detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang may constitute “crimes against humanity.”

In a landmark report released on Wednesday — roughly one year in the making — the UN rights office concluded that Uyghurs and people of other Muslim groups in Xinjiang were deprived of their fundamental rights from 2017 to 2019, and potentially thereafter.

“Allegations of patterns of torture or ill-treatment, including forced medical treatment and adverse conditions of detention, are credible,” the report said.

China has long been accused by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other rights groups of detaining more than 1 million Uyghurs in the far-western Xinjiang region.

The new UN report said the situation “requires urgent attention by the government, the United Nations intergovernmental bodies and human rights system, as well as the international community more broadly.”

Outgoing UN human rights chief defends legacy

A long time coming

The much-anticipated report draws from interviews with former detainees and other insiders at eight separate detention centers in Xinjiang.

Some detainees claimed they were made to sign contracts to remain silent about their experiences. The UN rights office also said Chinese authorities were not always forthcoming with information.

The 48-page report also observed a shift from detention in what Beijing calls “vocational centers” to more formal imprisonment on criminal grounds.

“This is of particular concern given the vague and capacious definitions of terrorism, ‘extremism’ and public security-related offenses under domestic criminal law,” the report said, adding it could lead to lengthy sentences.

The UN report include interviews with former detainees and other insiders at eight detention centers in Xinjiang

The German foreign ministry welcomed the report and called on the Chinese government “to immediately and fully guarantee the human rights of all people in Xinjiang.”

“We will discuss the consequences of the report with our partners in the EU and United Nations,” the ministry added.

Beijing denies allegations

The report was released just 13 minutes before UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet finished her four-year stint in the role.

Bachelet has been accused of being too soft on China in the past. However, she has rejected Chinese calls to withhold the report.

“I said that I would publish it before my mandate ended and I have,” Bachelet told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

“The issues are serious — and I raised them with high-level national and regional authorities in the country.”

Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, called the report a “political tool” against Beijing.

“The so-called critical report you mentioned is planned and manufactured firsthand by the US and some Western forces, it is wholly illegal and invalid,” he said in response to its publication. “The report is a hodgepodge of misinformation, and it is a political tool used as part of the West’s strategy of using Xinjiang to control China.”

China’s ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun, said earlier on Wednesday that Beijing was “firmly opposed” to the release of the report, which had been ready for months.

Prior to seeing the report, Zhang claimed the “so-called Xinjiang issue is a completely fabricated lie” designed to undermine China.

ab, zc/sri (AP, Reuters, AFP)