China has committed serious human rights violations in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. That’s according to a long-awaited report from the United Nations.
The report was released shortly before midnight Wednesday night, minutes before UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s term expired.
China’s “extremely problematic” policy to counter terrorism in the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs-populated region has resulted in systematic “serious and unnecessary restrictions on a wide range of human rights,” the report said. Uyghurs and other Islamic communities in Xinjiang are particularly victims of this.
Investigative agencies have broad and largely unchecked powers to detain and interrogate people. This has led to large-scale and arbitrary detention of Muslims, the UN notes. The organization believes reports of systematic torture and ill-treatment, forced medical treatment and sexual violence in so-called reeducation camps in Xinjiang are credible. The UN also denounces the practice of forced birth control among Uyghurs.
The oppression of the Muslim minorities is not limited to Xinjiang or even China. The Chinese authorities regularly pressure members of the Uyghur diaspora who criticize China or tell about what is happening in Xinjiang by intimidating relatives left behind.
The report has been in the works for three years. The publication was delayed several times, partly because human rights chief Bachelet wanted to incorporate her findings from a six-day trip through Xinjiang and other parts of China earlier this year. Information supplied by China also had to be assessed. The country put a lot of pressure on Bachelet not to publish its findings.
“Seeking the dialogue and deepening my understanding is different from tolerating, ignoring or closing one’s eyes,” Bachelet said when presenting the report. “It doesn’t rule out having to speak out either.”