Decoding UN's Report On Human Rights Abuses In China's Xinjiang: 'Serious Crimes But No Genocide'

Rights groups and several western nations, including the US, have criticised China for abuses against Uyghurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority with a population of 10 about million in the Xinjiang region.

By Aalok Sensharma
Thu, 01 Sep 2022 12:40 PM IST
Minute Read
Decoding UN's Report On Human Rights Abuses In China's Xinjiang: 'Serious Crimes But No Genocide'
Ethnic Uyghur women take part in a protest against China, in front of the Caglayan Courthouse in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo: Reuters)

The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office on Wednesday heavily criticised China for its "arbitrary and discriminatory detention" of Uyghurs and other Muslim groups in the country's western region of Xinjiang, accusing Beijing of committing serious crimes against human rights "in the context of the government's application of counter-terrorism and counter-'extremism' strategies".

The 48-page report, released by outgoing UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet just minutes before the end of her four-year term, recommended China to take immediate steps to release all those detained in training centers, prisons or detention facilities.

"The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups ... may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity," the UN office said in its report.

"There are credible indications of violations of reproductive rights through the coercive enforcement of family planning policies since 2017," it said, adding that a lack of government data "makes it difficult to draw conclusions on the full extent of current enforcement of these policies and associated violations of reproductive rights."

WHAT's THE MATTER?

Rights groups and several western nations, including the United States (US), have criticised China for abuses against Uyghurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority with a population of 10 about million in the Xinjiang region. The US has accused China of genocide in Xinjiang, a charge that has further strained relations between the two giants.

China, however, has repeatedly denied the charges levelled against it. On Wednesday, before the UN released its report, Zhang Jun - China's ambassador to the United Nations in New York - said that the global body should stay way from Beijing's internal affairs.

"We all know, so well, that the so-called Xinjiang issue is a completely fabricated lie out of political motivations and its purpose definitely is to undermine China's stability and to obstruct China's development," Zhang said. "We do not think it will produce any good to anyone, it simply undermines the cooperation between the United Nations and a member state."

WHAT WERE THE CHARGES LEVELLED AGAINST CHINA?

- The UN report says that "serious human rights violations" were committed in Xinjiang under China's policy to fight terrorism.

- The report says there were "credible" allegations of torture and ill-treatment, including charges of sexual violence.

- "Allegations of patterns of torture or ill-treatment, including forced medical treatment and adverse conditions of detention, are credible, as are allegations of individual incidents of sexual and gender-based violence," the report points out.

- It also said that there has been a massive spike in arrests and the Uyghurs and other Muslim groups in Xinjiang for "minor offenses or for engaging in conduct protected by international human rights law".

- "This is of particular concern given the vague and capacious definitions of terrorism, ‘extremism’ and public security related offenses under domestic criminal law," the UN report says.

'NO MENTION OF GENOCIDE'

The report, however, has not mentioned anything about genocide, a key charge levelled by rights group and western nations against China. Dilxat Raxit of the World Uyghur Congress, an international organisation of exiled Uyghur groups, said the report confirmed "solid evidence of atrocities" against Uyghurs, but wished it had gone further.

"I regret that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights did not characterise these extreme atrocities in China as genocide," he told Reuters in an email.

According to a report by Reuters, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet was asked by China last month to "bury" the UN report. Bachelet last week had confirmed receiving the letter which she said was signed by about 40 other states.

WHAT's RIGHTS GROUPS HAVE SAID?

Human rights groups have welcomed the UN report and described it as groundbreaking.

"Victims and their families whom the Chinese government has long vilified have at long last seen their persecution recognised, and can now look to the UN and its member states for action to hold those responsible accountable," said John Fisher, Human Rights Watch's global advocacy deputy director, as reported by Reuters.

Meanwhile, Bachelet has said she wants China to release people detained in detention facilities. "To be perfectly honest, the politicization of these serious human rights issues by some States did not help," she said.

"They made the task more difficult, they made the engagement more difficult and they made the trust-building and the ability to really have an impact on the ground more difficult."

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