Bachelet says goodbye to the UN delivering report on Xinjiang: China may have committed “crimes against humanity”

Finally, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, handed over this afternoon -10 minutes after leaving office- its YoReport on the abuses against the Uyghur ethnic group in China, where he recognizes that the actions of Beinjing in the region of xiangiang, where members of this Muslim minority live, “may constitute crimes against humanity”, in addition to restrictions on fundamental rights for members of this and other Muslim ethnic groups in this area of ​​the country.

“The information that OHCHR currently possesses on the implementation of the campaign against terrorism and “extremism” declared by the (Chinese) government in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (RAUX) in the period 2017-2019, and possibly after, it also raises concerns from the perspective of international criminal law”, indicates the text.

In this regard, it highlights that “the range of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of the Uyghur ethnic group and other predominantly Muslim groups (…), in the context of the restrictions and general deprivation of fundamental rights that are enjoyed in a individual and collective, may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.

It adds that “arbitrary detention systems and related patterns of abuse in vocational education and training centers (VETC) and other detention centers occur in a context of widespread discrimination against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities, based on perceptions of security threats emanating from individual members of these groups.”

Bachelet’s report adds that “This has included far-reaching, arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms, in violation of international norms and standards. These have included undue restrictions on religious identity and expression, as well as rights to privacy and relocation. There are serious indications of violations of reproductive rights through the coercive and discriminatory application of family planning and birth control policies. Similarly, there are indications that labor and employment schemes purported to alleviate poverty and prevent “extremism”, including those linked to the VETC system, may involve elements of coercion and discrimination on religious and ethnic grounds.”

In the text, the OHCHR office makes a series of recommendations to Beijing regarding this matter, such as “take immediate steps to release all people arbitrarily deprived of liberty in Xinjiang”, “urgently clarify the whereabouts of people whose relatives have been looking for information about their loved ones”, “undertake a complete review of the legal framework that governs national security, the fight against terrorism and the rights of minorities in Xinjiang to ensure compliance with international human rights law standards, and urgently repeal all laws, policies and practices against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.”

It also asks the Chinese government “promptly investigate allegations of human rights violations at VETCs and other detention facilities, including allegations of torture, sexual violence, mistreatment, forced medical treatment, as well as forced labor and reports of deaths in custody”Immediately cease all intimidation and retaliation against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities.” and “ensure that all citizens, including ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities can have a valid passport to travel to and from China without fear of retaliation.”in addition to ratifying international conventions on civil rights and protection of persons against forced disappearance, among others.

Finally, the OHCHR report recommends that the international community support efforts to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights in the Xinjiang region. “States must refrain from forcibly returning Uyghurs and members of other predominantly Muslim minorities to China. (…) and provide humanitarian assistance, including medical and psychosocial support, to the victims in the States in which they are found.”

Bachelet faced criticism for being too soft on China during a visit in May, after which she decided not to run for a second term.

The launch, says The New York Times, ended a nearly year-long delay that had exposed Bachelet and her office to fierce pushback from human rights groups, activists and others who had accused her of kowtowing to Beijing. that he had tried to block the report.

“This is an unprecedented challenge to Beijing’s lies and horrific treatment of Uyghurs,” said Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch. “The High Commissioner’s damning findings explain why the Chinese government fought tooth and nail to prevent the release of its Xinjiang report, which exposes China’s human rights abuses.”

A woman carries a child at night in the old town of Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. Photo: Reuters

He added: “The United Nations Human Rights Council should use the report to launch a thorough investigation into the Chinese government’s crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and others, and hold those responsible to account.”

Last May, Bachelet made a trip to China, and specifically to the Xinjiang region. The six-day itinerary began on May 23 in Guangzhou with a meeting with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and marked a precedent as it was the first visit by a United Nations (UN) High Commissioner since Louise Arbor did. in 2005. The delegation also visited the cities of Kashgar and Urumqi, the regional capital, on a trip that sought to clarify possible violations against Uyghur Muslim communities.

But the arrival of the delegation was not exempt from questioning by human rights organizations, which got together and sent a letter to the former Chilean president where almost 200 NGOs expressed their concern. The same line as that of the Joe Biden government, which pointed out that China was going to use the visit as political propaganda to allege false accusations regarding fundamental rights. It was the spokesman for the US State Department, Ned Price, who stated that they were “deeply concerned about the upcoming visit of the High Commissioner.”

Bachelet’s comments about her visit were denounced by uyghurs abroad and human rights groups who accused her of ignoring the widespread repression. Her office’s report was greeted as a long-awaited acknowledgment of the abuses China has been accused of committing as part of state policy in the region.

“I was accompanied by government officials during my visit to Xinjiang,” Bachelet said, because “high-level visits are not fact-finding missions by definition,” she said. But he stressed that his much-criticized trip to China allowed him to raise important issues of great concern to Chinese leaders and policymakers.

There are about 12 million Uyghurs who are mostly Muslim, living in Xinjiang, which is officially known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Located in northwest China, it is the largest region in the country, covering one sixth of China’s territory. In theory, it has some powers of self-government, but in practice it is subject to significant restrictions by the central government.

The Uyghurs speak their own language, which is similar to Turkish, and are considered culturally and ethnically close to the nations of Central Asia. They make up less than half of Xinjiang’s population. Recent decades have seen a massive migration of Han Chinese (China’s ethnic majority) to the region, allegedly orchestrated by the state to placate the minority population there. Beijing has also been accused of targeting Muslim religious figures and banning religious practices, as well as destroying mosques and tombs. Uyghur activists fear that their culture is under threat of being erased.

A UN human rights committee in 2018 said it had credible reports that China was holding a million people in “counter-extremism centers” in Xinjiang. While the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found evidence in 2020 of more than 380 such “re-education camps” in Xinjiang, a 40% increase from previous estimates.

Several countries, including the US, Canada and the Netherlands, have accused China of committing genocide. The remarks follow reports that in addition to interning Uyghurs in camps, China has been forcibly mass-sterilizing Uyghur women to suppress the population, separating children from their families and attempting to break cultural traditions. of the group.

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