grave human rights violations committed in China’s Xinjiang: UN human rights chief


In a report released on Wednesday, the departing UN human rights chief claimed that severe human rights abuses had occurred in China’s Xinjiang region as a result of the implementation of anti-terrorism and “anti-extremism” policies by the government. 

After receiving criticism for being too lenient toward China during a visit in May, United Nations elevated Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, whose four-year term is coming to an end this week, opted not to run for re-election. 

More than a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are allegedly being detained by Beijing in western Xinjiang. Campaigners charge China with a long list of human rights violations, including mass detention, forced labour, forced sterilisation, and the destruction of Uyghur religious and cultural sites.

“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 said. 

“The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups, pursuant to law and policy, in context of restrictions and deprivation more generally of fundamental rights enjoyed individually and collectively, may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity,” it added.

Congressmen in other Western nations and the United States have even accused China of conducting “genocide” against minority communities. Beijing firmly denies the allegations and has long maintained that it operates centres for vocational training in Xinjiang that are intended to combat extremism. It asserts that the accusations are a part of a plan by the US and other Western countries to malign China and check its rise. 

As the allegations grew, Bachelet was under growing pressure to look into them and respond. The former president of Chile addressed the UN Human Rights Council about a year ago that her administration was finishing a report and called for an impartial assessment of the situation. But despite the growing impatience of rights organisations and some countries, it was repeatedly delayed.

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Bachelet visited Xinjiang during her brief, six-day trip to China in May. She asked Beijing to refrain from “arbitrary and indiscriminate” actions in the area during her visit. 

Rights organisations, however, criticised her for what they saw as a lack of toughness. They said that she had given in to a stage-managed visit to Xinjiang that Beijing had planned. The report, according to Human Rights Watch, will assist demonstrate that no state is above the law.

(with inputs from agencies)

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