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UN report on rights violations in Xinjiang likely to worsen ties between China, West

 

Outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet Michelle Bachelet speaks during a news conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on Dec. 9, 2020. [AP Photo]

The recent United Nations report on China detailing rights abuses in Xinjiang is likely to strain ties between China and the West.

The report said the Chinese government’s arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in the western region of Xinjiang may constitute crimes against humanity.

Human rights groups and the Japanese government welcomed the report, which had become caught up in a tug-of-war between China and others, who were critical of the delay and lobbying for its release.

The assessment released last Wednesday by the U.N. human rights office in Geneva concluded that China committed serious human rights violations under its anti-terrorism and anti-extremism policies and calls for “urgent attention” from the U.N., the world community and China itself to address them.

But China has denounced the report terming it an ‘illegal document through and through’.

Liu Yuyin, Spokesperson of the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations, stressed that the so-called assessment is an illegal document and a perverse product of the US and some other Western forces’ coercive diplomacy.

“Their lies about Xinjiang can deceive no one in the world and their attempt to contain China by disrupting Xinjiang is doomed to fail,” he said.

As a result, a group of 60 Uyghur organizations from 20 countries are calling for an immediate response to put an end to atrocities against Uyghurs, following the release of a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

A Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, in a statement, said Uyghurs are calling for seven concrete actions by governments, multilateral bodies, and corporations.

“This UN report is extremely important. It paves the way for meaningful and tangible action by member states, UN bodies, and the business community,” said World Uyghur Congress President Dolkun Isa. “Accountability starts now.”

“This is a game-changer for the international response to the Uyghur crisis,” said Uyghur Human Rights Project Executive Director Omer Kanat. “Despite the Chinese government’s strenuous denials, the UN has now officially recognised that horrific crimes are occurring.”

According to them, the report offers the most definitive assessment of the issues faced by Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples from the world’s leading human rights body.

Most notably, it finds that “arbitrary and discriminatory detention” of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples, within the context of other restrictions, “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”

The report also notes that the human rights abuses have included “far-reaching, arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms, in violation of international norms and standards,” and that documentation of “patterns of torture or ill-treatment” is credible, including “incidents of sexual […] violence.”

On the crime of state-imposed forced labour, the report affirms the “deep concerns” of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), stating that the “OHCHR shares, from the human rights perspective, the concerns laid out by the ILO supervisory bodies.”

The groundbreaking report further contains victim accounts that substantiate mass arbitrary detention, torture, and other serious human rights violations and recommends world to take action to end the abuses.

But Liu in his remarks said, “OHCHR drafted and released the so-called assessment without the mandate from the Human Rights Council or the consent of the Chinese Government, which is a serious violation of OHCHR’s mandate. The so-called assessment is based on the presumption of guilt.”

According to him, it takes the words of a few anti-China separatists as the main source of information, while deliberately ignoring the authoritative information and materials provided by the Chinese Government, and therefore has zero credibility.

The report recommends for the Chinese government to take steps to release those arbitrarily detained; clarify the whereabouts of detained family members; cease intimidation and reprisals against Uyghurs in connection with their advocacy; to cooperate with the ILO Committee of Experts recommendations; and provide “adequate remedy and reparation to victims” of human rights abuses.

It recommends that governments should “refrain from returning [Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples] to China” and “provide humanitarian assistance, including medical and psycho-social support, to victims in the States in which they are located.