A United Nations report accusing China of committing serious human rights abuses in Xinjiang has prompted a fiery response from Beijing.
On Wednesday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a 48 page report which found “serious human rights violations” in the Chinese government’s repression of ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.
The assessment, which the international body said was “based on a rigorous review of the documentation currently available to the Office”, took years to complete and posted a few minutes ago The four-year term of UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Basele has come to an end.
For years, China has been accused of mass detention, forced labor, birth suppression and other forms of repression against cultures and religions of the Uyghurs and other ethnicities.
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According to the report, Chinese authorities engaged in acts of intimidation, threats and retaliation against the victims and their relatives who now live abroad and speak about their experiences in Xinjiang.
“We had to sign a document to remain silent about the camp” an interviewer revealed. “Otherwise, we would have been detained longer and there would have been punishment for the whole family.”
At the end of the report, the OHCHR said the extent of arbitrary detention against Uyghurs and others in the context of “restrictions and deprivations of fundamental rights in general, which we enjoy individually and collectively, may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
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Hours after the report was released, Liu Yuyin, a spokesman for the Chinese mission in Geneva, issued a statement rejecting the findings as a simple attempt to tarnish China’s reputation.
“It is a completely politicized document that ignores facts and explicitly reveals the attempt of some Western countries and forces against China to use human rights as a political tool.” statement read.
On Thursday, China’s ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun spoke in a video expressing his government’s condemnation of the report, which he said was done “to undermine China’s stability and hinder China’s development.”
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The report has been welcomed by rights advocates, foreign officials and exiled Uyghurs who are considering taking the issue before the UN Human Rights Council later this month.
In a joint statement, 63 Uyghur advocacy groups described the report as “the most definitive assessment of the issues facing Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples.”
Uyghur Human Rights Program Director Omer Kanat called the assessment a “game changer” in the global effort to address the Uyghur crisis.
“Despite persistent denials by the Chinese government, the UN has now officially acknowledged that horrific crimes are taking place,” he was quoted as saying.
The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), an international cross-party group of lawmakers, also issued a statement of support of the UN report.
“The onus is now on member states to ensure that formal legal determinations are pursued, including investigations into alleged genocide and crimes against humanity,” the statement said.
In the report, the UN rights office urged the Chinese government to release all those arbitrarily detained and provide relevant information to relatives seeking explanations for their missing family members.
Before the report was published, China reportedly did tries to block the assessment writing a letter directly to Bachelet.
Featured image via Reuters (left), CGTN (correctly)