A report published Wednesday by outgoing High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations Michelle Bachelet accuses China of committing human rights abuses that may amount to crimes against humanity in Xinjiang province. Photo courtesy U.N. Human Rights office/<a href="https://twitter.com/UNHumanRights/status/1562714527472332800?s=20&amp;t=oymYR6WOeaE07pFhTugbgA">Twitter</a>
A report published Wednesday by outgoing High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations Michelle Bachelet accuses China of committing human rights abuses that may amount to crimes against humanity in Xinjiang province. Photo courtesy U.N. Human Rights office/Twitter

Sept. 1 (UPI) — The United Nations’ human rights office has accused China of committing abuses against its Muslim minority Uyghur citizens in Xinjiang province that “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”

The long-awaited, and damning, 45-page report was published Wednesday and minutes before the term of Michelle Bachelet, the high commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations, was to expire.

The delay was purportedly due to the late submission of China’s rebuttal to the report that required names and faces of people in pictures to be redacted.

The publication of the report also follows years of serious allegations made against China by human rights organizations and countries, including the United States, Britain and Canada, that the Asian nation has been committing grave human rights violations against its Uyghur population, with some accusing it of practicing genocide.

An estimated 1 million Uighurs are believed to have been held in so-called re-education camps since 2017 where they are subjected to force labor, sterilization and disappearances. They are also alleged victims of torture and arbitrary detainment. Their freedom of religion, expression and movement are also restricted, as well as their cultural and linguistic identity.

China has vehemently denied the allegations and argue the internment camps aim to stamp out extremism and terrorism while fostering development and job creation. It repeatedly accuses those who raise the allegations of attempting to interfere with its internal affairs.

Han Chinese police patrol the streets during Ramadan in what many consider the Muslim capital of China, Urumqi, the capital of China’s predominantly Muslim and restive Xinjiang Province, on June 29, 2015. Urumqi has been the sight of several bloody riots between the Chinese Han and the Muslim Uygurs, prompting government officials to restrict movements and communications within the city, as well as travel outside the province. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI

The U.N. report does not go as far as to accuse China of committing genocide but directly states “[s]erious human rights violation have been committed in XUAR,” which is the initialism for the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, located in northwestern China.

The report explains China’s counter-terrorism policies are “deeply problematic” and have led to “interlocking patterns of severe and undue restrictions on a wide range of human rights.”

“This framework … has in practice led to the large-scale arbitrary deprivation of liberty of members of Uighur and other predominately Muslim communities in XUAR,” it said.

The report continues that even if Beijing’s re-education program has been reduced, as China claims, the laws and policies it was based on remain while there has been an increasing number and length of imprisonments for Uighurs, “suggesting that the focus of deprivation of liberty detentions has shifted towards imprisonment.”

The U.N. report also similarly found what others have claimed for years in that Uighurs are subjected to far-reaching, arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on human rights and freedoms, including restrictions on religious identity and expression and the rights to privacy and movement.

“There are serious indications of violations of reproductive rights through the coercive and discriminatory enforcement of family planning and birth control policies,” the report states. “Similarly, there are indications that labor and employment schemes for purported purposes of poverty alleviation and prevention of ‘extremism’ … may involve elements of coercion and discrimination on religious and ethnic grounds.”

It also states that the policies have “transcended borders,” separating families and severing human contacts while exacerbating patterns of intimidation and threats against members of the Uighur diaspora.

Liu Yuyin, spokesman for the Chinese mission to the United Nations, said in a statement that they firmly oppose report as it “smears and slanders China and interferes in China’s internal affairs,” while chastising the U.N. human rights office for not including in the report materials provided by China that Liu described as “objective.”

“The so-called ‘assessment’ is purely a farce plotted by some Western countries and anti-China forces,” Liu said. “It is completely a politicized document that disregards facts and reveals explicitly the attempt of some Western countries and anti-China forces to use human rights as a political tool.”

Liu also accused the U.N. office of “turning a blind eye to the tremendous human rights achievements” made in Xinjiang.

On the other hand, Uighur activists and human rights organizations cheered report as representing a possible turning point in the fight for Xinjiang that may lead to concrete actions by the United Nations and the international community.

“This U.N. report is extremely important,” Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uighur Congress, said in a statement. “It paves the way for meaningful and tangible action by member states, U.N. bodies and the business community.”

Rushan Abbas, executive director of Campaign for Uighurs, complained that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights took too long to produce the report but now that it has been published there can be no denying its contents.

“There can be no shying away from the obligation to act,” Abbas said. “Stopping genocide was a foundational purpose of the U.N., and it must be upheld now.”

The publishing of the report follows Bachelet’s visit to the region in May, after which she issued a statement that attracted staunch criticism for human rights groups and nations over its praise of Beijing for its alleviation of poverty while making little reference to the plight of Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Some critics of the statement, including Abbas, called on Bachelet to immediately resign.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said the report by Bachelet lays bare for the first time the grave abuses of the Chinese government.

“Victims and their families whom the Chinese government has long vilified have at long last seen their persecution recognized, and can now look to the U.N. and its member states for action to hold those responsible accountable,” John Fisher, global advocacy deputy direction at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

The New York-based organization contends that the report also challenges China’s disregard for its international human rights violations and that the report should be put forward at the Human Rights Council as a matter of priority to be discussed by member states.

“Never has it been so important for the U.N. system to stand up to Beijing, and to stand with victims. Governments should waste no time establishing an independent investigation and taking all measures necessary to advance accountability and provide Uighurs and others the justice they are entitled,” he said.

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