China rejects UN report on Uyghur rights abuses in Xinjiang

BEIJING (AP) — China has denounced a long-delayed U.N. report released following its protest that says the government’s arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in the western region of Xinjiang could constitute crimes against humanity.

Human rights groups and the Japanese government hailed the report, which had become embroiled in a standoff between China and others, who criticized the delay and pushed for its publication.

The assessment released on Wednesday evening by the United Nations human rights office in Geneva concluded that China had committed serious human rights violations under its counter-terrorism and counter-extremism policies and called for “the ‘urgent attention’ from the UN, the global community and China itself to address them.

The report largely corroborates previous reports by researchers, advocacy groups, and the news media, while carefully straying from estimates and other conclusions that cannot be definitively proven. It adds UN weight to the findings, although China has shown no sign of backing down from its sweeping denials and portraying the criticism as a politicized Western smear campaign.

In a harshly worded protest that the UN released with its report, the Chinese diplomatic mission in Geneva said it strongly opposes the release of the UN assessment, which it says ignores achievements. human rights in Xinjiang and the damage caused by terrorism and extremism to the people. .

“Based on the disinformation and lies fabricated by anti-China forces and on presumption of guilt, the so-called ‘assessment’ distorts Chinese laws, wantonly defames and slanders China, and interferes in China’s internal affairs. China,” the protest read in part. .

Japan was one of the first foreign governments to comment on the report, which was released early Thursday morning in Asia. His top government spokesperson urged China to improve transparency and human rights conditions in the Xinjiang region.

“Japan is very concerned about human rights conditions in Xinjiang, and we believe it is important that universal values ​​such as freedom, basic human rights and the rule of law are also guaranteed in China. “said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called on the UN and governments to open an independent investigation into human rights violations.

“It has never been more important for the United Nations system to stand up to Beijing and stand with the victims,” said John Fisher, deputy director of global advocacy for the group.

The UN report makes no mention of the genocide, which some countries, including the United States, have accused China of committing in Xinjiang.

The report was drawn in part from interviews with former detainees and others familiar with conditions at eight detention centers.

He said the descriptions of the detentions were marked by patterns of torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment and said the allegations of rape and other sexual violence appeared credible.

“The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of Uyghur members and other predominantly Muslim groups…in (the) context of more general restrictions and deprivation of fundamental rights…may amount to international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity,” the report said.

The rights office said it could not confirm estimates that a million or more people were being held in Xinjiang’s internment camps, but added that it was “reasonable to conclude that a pattern of large-scale arbitrary detention occurred” at least between 2017 and 2019.

Beijing has closed many camps, which it has called vocational training and education centers, but hundreds of thousands of people continue to languish in prison, many on vague and secret charges.

The UN assessment said reports of a sharp increase in arrests and long prison sentences in the region strongly suggested a shift to formal incarceration rather than the use of camps.

The report calls on China to release all those arbitrarily detained and to clarify the fate of those who have disappeared and whose families are seeking information about them.

The publication of the report was in some ways as important as its content.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said she had come under pressure from both sides to post – or not to post – and had resisted it all, while noting her experience of the political pressure during his two terms as President of Chile.

His announcement in June that the report would be published by the end of his 4-year term on August 31 sparked a flurry of behind-the-scenes campaigning, including letters from civil society, civilians and governments on both sides. sides of the question.

“To be perfectly honest, the politicization of these serious human rights issues by some states hasn’t helped,” said Bachelet, who early on showed a desire to cooperate with governments.

Critics had said not publishing the report would have been a blatant black mark on his tenure.

Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said: “The inexcusable delay in the publication of this report casts a stain” on the record of the UN human rights office, “but this must not detract of its importance”.

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Keaten reported from Geneva. Associated Press reporters Chisato Tanaka in Tokyo and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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