According to a recent report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), “serious human rights violations” have been committed in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) against Uyghurs and “other predominantly Muslim communities.”
As per the OHCHR’s long-awaited report, published late Wednesday, abuses against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs stem from ‘anti-terrorism law systems.’
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) August 31, 2022
The document was published minutes before UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet’s term ended.
Unlike the governments of the United States and parliaments of the United Kingdom, Canada, and France, which referred to it as genocide, this report does not use the term.
However, it concludes: “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 rights office elaborates on the methodology: “Particular attention was given to the government’s laws, policies, data, and statements. The office also requested information and engaged in dialogue and technical exchanges with China throughout the process.”
In an official response, Beijing stated that the accusations were based on disinformation and lies propagated by anti-China forces. Beijing’s response was accompanied by a counter statement, inferring that it is fighting terrorism through the implementation of “de-radicalization” and “Vocal Educational and Training Centers (VETCs)” in the region.
Furthermore, OHCHR mentions that the current government policy in Xinjiang has “led to interlocking patterns of severe and undue restrictions on a wide range of human rights.”
The document was highly critical of the Chinese government’s anti-extremism policies, which underpin the crackdown and lead to increased use of imprisonment. It suggests that laws and regulations are vague and ill-defined.
Although Bachelet’s report could not give an exact picture of how many people had been held in vocational education and training centers. However, it found a “pattern of large-scale arbitrary detention” of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim communities in the Xinjiang region between 2017 and 2019.
It talks about allegations of torture and ill-treatment at the VETCs, which include individual incidents of sexual and gender-based violence. Such an allegation raises concerns over “serious indications of violations of reproductive rights through the coercive and discriminatory enforcement of family planning and birth control policies.”
Along with these, “there are indications that labor and employment schemes” in XUAR may “involve elements of coercion and discrimination on religious and ethnic grounds.”
In addition, it recommends that China immediately take measures to release “all individuals arbitrarily deprived of their liberty.”
Human rights groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as several nations, such as the United States, welcomed Bachelet’s Report.