Sep 01, 2022

Uyghur Genocide : UN Publish Report on Situation of Human Rights in Xinjang/East Turkestan, confirming Crimes Against Humanity

Ms. Michelle Bachelet published on Wednesday 31 August the long-awaited report about the situation of Human Rights in Xinjiang/East Turkestan. The report concluds that serious human rights violations against the Uyghurs and “other predominantly Muslim communities” has been committed. The report also indicates that “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 and reprisals.”

Following her highly publicized state-organized visit to the People’s Republic of China, Bachelet was heavily criticized for echoing the Chinese Communist Party’s officials' rhetoric on “re-education” of Uyghur people. If during the press briefing that followed the visit she made a few pointed criticism of China's policy in the so-called Xinjiang Province, the report recently published indicates that ‘the extent of arbitrary detentions against Uyghur and others, in context of “restrictions and deprivation more generally of fundamental rights, enjoyed individually and collectively, may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”

Uyghurs are a Turkic-ethnic people located in the north-west of the Chinese territory. Alongside other ethnic minority groups such as Tibetans and Mongolians, Uyghurs were largely marginalized from power under a platform of “Hanification” of Chinese society instigated by the Chinese Communist Party. Following the Urumqi riots in 2009, the Communist Party of China engaged in a gradual policy of forced internment under the orders of Chinese Premier Xi Jingping and supervision of Xinjiang/East Turkestan Party secretary Chen Quanguo. An independent tribunal found that the treatment of Uyghurs in China constituted a genocide in December 2021.

The World Uyghur Congress, the UNPO and many other Human Rights Organisations have been repeatedly asking the international community to shed light on the abuses and call on Chinese officials to stop the senseless authoritarian practices of detaining hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs in “re-education” slave camps against their will. Cases of forced sterilization, forced marriages and even organ harvesting have been reported within the camps. 

The President of the World Uyghur Congress Mr. Dolkun Isa has indicated to Politico that the report 'is extremely important. It paves the way for meaningful and tangible action by member states, UN bodies, and the business community" adding that "accountability starts now." In the article published by Politico it is also indicated that 'Over the past week, Bachelet gave the report to China for a preview, and even on Wednesday the team was still busy rewriting part of it to accommodate some of Beijing’s version'.

If the UNPO celebrates the release in extremis of the report by Ms. Bachelet during the last moments of her mandate, the UNPO is concerned by the fact that the UN human rights system has been severely undermined by the actions and strong hesitations of Ms. Bachelet in relation to the Human Rights abuses committed in China. The belief that a country’s political leadership can not only get away with human rights abuses but actively instrumentalise the visit of a UN official for political gain is one that could lead to an emboldening of autocratic regimes across the globe. As mentioned by the Geneva Observer  few days ago 'The report’s handling illustrates how the Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) can end up as a hostage of a confrontation between two powerful members of the Security Council—in this case China and the US—and that human rights have become another theater in the struggle for hegemony. ‘

Moreover, UNPO hopes that the selection of the successor by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres goes beyond the geopolitical skulduggery and takes a strong stance on the growing, and transnational, repression against ethnic minorities in increasingly authoritarian states. A new High Commissioner can also mean a fresh start for a new Human Rights regime at the UN, with a more firm approach and a reform of the OHCHR as an institution independent of political machinations and focused on its mandate. A continued investigation into the Chinese concentration camps in Xinjiang/East Turkestan as well as to the Human Rights abuses against other Tibetans and Mongolians is required.