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UN Cites Possible Crimes vs. Humanity in China’s Xinjiang

Jamey Keten and Edith M. Lederer wrote . . . . . . . . .

China’s discriminatory detention of Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in the western region of Xinjiang may constitute crimes against humanity, the U.N. human rights office said in a long-awaited report Wednesday, which cited “serious” rights violations and patterns of torture in recent years.

The report seeks “urgent attention” from the U.N. and the world community to rights violations in Beijing’s campaign to root out terrorism.

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, facing pressure on both sides, brushed aside multiple Chinese calls for her office to withhold the report, which follows her own, much-criticized trip to Xinjiang in May. Beijing contends the report is part of a Western campaign to smear China’s reputation.

The report has fanned a tug-of-war for diplomatic influence with the West over the rights of the region’s native Uyghurs and other ethnic groups.

The report, which Western diplomats and U.N. officials said had been all but ready for months, was published with just minutes to go in Bachelet’s four-year term. It was unexpected to break significant new ground beyond sweeping findings from researchers, advocacy groups and journalists who have documented concerns about human rights in Xinjiang for several years.

But the 48-page report comes with the imprimatur of the United Nations and its member countries — notably including rising superpower China itself. The report largely corroborates earlier reporting by advocacy groups and others and injects U.N heft behind the outrage that victims and their families have expressed about China’s policies in Xinjiang.

“Beijing’s repeated denial of the human rights crisis in Xinjiang rings ever-more hollow with this further recognition of the evidence of ongoing crimes against humanity and other human rights violation in the region,” Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary-general, said in a statement.

The run-up to the report’s release fueled a debate over China’s influence at the world body and epitomized the on-and-off diplomatic chill between Beijing and the West over human rights, among other sore spots.

China shot back, saying the U.N. rights office ignored human rights “achievements” made together by “people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang.”

“Based on the disinformation and lies fabricated by anti-China forces and out of presumption of guilt, the so-called ‘assessment’ distorts China’s laws, wantonly smears and slanders China, and interferes in China’s internal affairs,” read a letter from China’s diplomatic mission in Geneva issued in response to the U.N. report.

China released a 122-page report titled “Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism in Xinjiang: Truth and Facts” that defended its record and was distributed by the U.N. with its assessment.

The U.N. report says “serious human rights violations” have been committed in Xinjiang under China’s policies to fight terrorism and extremism, which singled out Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim communities, between 2017 and 2019.

The report cites “patterns of torture” inside what Beijing called vocational training centers, which were part of its reputed plan to boost economic development in region, and it points to “credible” allegations of torture or ill-treatment, including cases of sexual violence.

Above all, perhaps, the report warns that the “arbitrary and discriminatory detention” of such groups in Xinjiang, through moves that stripped them of “fundamental rights … may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”

The report called on China to release all individuals arbitrarily detained and to clarify the whereabouts of individuals who have disappeared and whose families are seeking information about them.

The report was drawn in part from interviews with former detainees and others familiar with conditions at eight detention centers. Its authors suggest China was not always forthcoming with information, saying requests for some specific sets of information “did not receive formal response.”

The rights office said it could not confirm estimates of how many people were detained in the internment camps in Xinjiang, but added it was “reasonable to conclude that a pattern of large-scale arbitrary detention occurred” at least between 2017 and 2019.

According to investigations by researchers and journalists, the Chinese government’s mass detention campaign in Xinjiang swept an estimated million or more Uyghurs and other ethnic groups into a network of prisons and camps over the past five years.

Beijing has closed many of the camps, but hundreds of thousands continue to languish in prison on vague, secret charges.

The report said that reports of sharp increases in arrests and lengthy prison sentences in the region strongly suggested a shift toward formal incarceration as the principal means for large-scale imprisonment and deprivation of liberty — instead of the use of the “vocational training centers” once touted by Beijing.

“This is of particular concern given the vague and capacious definitions of terrorism, ‘extremism’ and public security related offenses under domestic criminal law,” the report said, saying it could lead to lengthy sentences, “including for minor offenses or for engaging in conduct protected by international human rights law.”

Some countries, including the United States, have accused Beijing of committing genocide in Xinjiang. The U.N. report made no mention of genocide.

Bachelet said in recent months that she received pressure from both sides to publish — or not publish — the report and resisted it all, treading a fine line while noting her experience with political squeeze during her two terms as president of Chile.

In June, Bachelet said she would not seek a new term as rights chief and promised the report would be released by her departure date on Aug. 31. That led to a swell in back-channel campaigns — including letters from civil society, civilians and governments on both sides of the issue. She hinted last week her office might miss her deadline, saying it was “trying” to release it before her exit.

Bachelet had set her sights on Xinjiang on taking office in September 2018, but Western diplomats voiced concern in private that over her term, she did not challenge China enough when other rights monitors had cited abuses against Uyghurs and others in Xinjiang.

In a statement from her office early Thursday, Bachelet said she had wanted to take “the greatest care” to deal with responses and input received from the Chinese government last week. Such reports are typically shared with the concerned country before final publication, but generally to check facts — not to allow vetting or influence of the final report.

“I said that I would publish it before my mandate ended and I have,” she said after the report was published.

Critics had said a failure to publish the report would have been a glaring black mark on her tenure, and the pressure from some countries made her job harder.

“To be perfectly honest, the politicization of these serious human rights issues by some states did not help,” said Bachelet, who early on staked out a desire to cooperate with governments.

“I appeal to the international community not to instrumentalize real, serious human rights issues for political ends, but rather to work to support efforts to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights,” she added.

Her trip to the region in May was widely criticized by human rights groups, the U.S. administration and other governments as a public relations exercise for China.

Hours before the publication, the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Stephane Dujarric, said the U.N. chief had “no involvement” in how the report was drafted or handled, citing his commitment to Bachelet’s independence.

Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said Bachelet’s “damning findings explain why the Chinese government fought tooth and nail to prevent the publication of her Xinjiang report, which lays bare China’s sweeping rights abuses.”

Richardson urged the 47-member Human Rights Council, whose next session is in September, to investigate the allegations and hold those responsible to account.


Source : AP

U.N. Expert Concludes ‘Forced Labour’ Has Taken Place in Xinjiang

Martin Quin Pollard wrote . . . . . . . . .

It is “reasonable to conclude” that forced labour of members of minority groups has taken place in China’s western Xinjiang region, the UN’s top expert on slavery said in a report released this week, prompting a fierce response from Beijing.

The findings were “based on an independent assessment of available information”, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Tomoya Obokata, said in a report that he shared on his Twitter account on Tuesday.

“The Special Rapporteur regards it as reasonable to conclude that forced labour among Uighur, Kazakh and other ethnic minorities in sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing has been occurring in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China,” it said.

China rejects all accusations of abuse of Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.

The report, dated July 19, is publicly available in a UN documents library.

Two distinct “state-mandated” systems exist in Xinjiang, it said: a vocational skills education and training centre system, where minorities are “detained and subjected” to work placements, and a poverty alleviation through labour transfer system involving rural workers.

“While these programmes may create employment opportunities for minorities and enhance their incomes, as claimed by the Government, the Special Rapporteur considers that indicators of forced labour pointing to the involuntary nature of work rendered by affected communities have been present in many cases,” said the 20-page report, which also covered contemporary slavery-related issues and concerns in other countries.

China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday reiterated Beijing’s denial that there had ever been forced labour in Xinjiang, defended China’s record on protecting workers’ rights and heavily criticised the report’s findings.

“A certain special rapporteur chooses to believe in lies and disinformation about Xinjiang spread by the U.S. and some other Western countries and anti-China forces,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily briefing in Beijing.

Obokata’s report is separate from a highly anticipated report on human rights in Xinjiang being prepared by United Nations High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, who has pledged to publish it before leaving office at the end of this month.

Reuters reported last month that China has sought to stop Bachelet from releasing her report, citing a Chinese letter reviewed by Reuters and diplomats who received it.


Source : Reuters

Top Rights Experts Urge Repeal of Hong Kong’s National Security Law

wrote . . . . . . . . .

Independent UN-appointed human rights experts who have urged China to repeal Hong Kong’s 2020 national security law (NSL) after claiming that its use had led to the arrest of children, said on Wednesday that they welcomed pledges to replace it with a more transparent and consultative process.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have said the law, imposed “overnight” by Beijing in June 2020, was necessary to restore and safeguard stability after anti-government and anti-China demonstrations erupted in 2019.

Definition unclear

The UN Human Rights Committee underscored the shortcomings of the National Security Law (NSL), including its lack of clarity on “national security” and the possibility of transferring cases from Hong Kong to mainland China.

“There was a lot of discussions on recent legislation, including Hong Kong National Security Law. I think there was a constructive discussion on those issues and the committee did raise its concerns,” said Photini Pazartzis, Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, at a press conference in Geneva.

The panel urged Hong Kong to repeal the national security law and, in the meantime, refrain from applying it.

“The Committee was deeply concerned about the overly broad interpretation of Hong Kong National Security Law, the NSL, which was passed by the National People’s Congress of China without consultation with the Hong Kong’s public,” said vice chair, Christopher Arif Balkan.

Dozens of child arrests

He added that since it was introduced in 2020, the NSL had reportedly led to the arrests of “over 200 people, including 12 children.”

The Committee monitors the application of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by State parties. It released its findings on Hong Kong following a scheduled review in Geneva.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is a signatory to the Covenant for investigation, prosecution, trial and execution of penalties, but mainland China is not.

“Once a State party has subscribed to the Covenant, there is an obligation that those rights are paramount.

“In other words, your local legislation cannot derogate from those rights. There are human rights, after all, universal rights,” explained Mr. Arif Balkan. “China is not a party to the ICCPR. But then China can implement the NSL within Hong Kong. So that creates a lacuna for residents of Hong Kong,” he added.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the guarantee of a high level of autonomy, including freedom of expression. Representatives of the semi-autonomous territory informed the Committee that they were contemplating new national security legislation. The Committee members said they hoped the law could be amended for the better.

Promises broken

“They gave us assurances, that there would be transparency, consultation in enacting a new security law,” said Mr. Arif Balkan.

The UN Human Rights Committee published its findings on Hong Kong, China, among other countries, after the closing of its 135th session on Wednesday in the Swiss city.

The findings contained the Committee’s main concerns and recommendations on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as positive aspects.

The Human Rights Committee monitors States parties’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It has been ratified by 173 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.


Source : United Nations

China Seeks to Stop UN Rights Chief from Releasing Xinjiang Report

Emma Farge wrote . . . . . . . . .

China is asking the United Nations human rights chief to bury a highly-anticipated report on human rights violations in Xinjiang, according to a Chinese letter seen by Reuters and confirmed by diplomats from three countries who received it.

United Nations High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet has faced severe criticism from civil society for being too soft on China during a May visit and has since said she will refrain from seeking a second term for personal reasons.

But before she leaves at the end of August, she has pledged to publish a report into the western Chinese region of Xinjiang. Rights groups accuse Beijing of abuses against Xinjiang’s Uyghur inhabitants, including the mass use of forced labour in internment camps. China has vigorously denied the allegations.

The letter authored by China expressed “grave concern” about the Xinjiang report and aims to halt its release, said four sources – the three diplomats and a rights expert who all spoke on condition of anonymity. They said China began circulating it among diplomatic missions in Geneva from late June and asked countries to sign it to show their support.

“The assessment (on Xinjiang), if published, will intensify politicisation and bloc confrontation in the area of human rights, undermine the credibility of the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights), and harm the cooperation between OHCHR and member states,” the letter said, referring to Bachelet’s office.

“We strongly urge Madame High Commissioner not to publish such an assessment.”

Liu Yuyin, a spokesperson for China’s diplomatic mission in Geneva, did not say whether the letter had been sent or respond to questions about its contents.

Liu said that nearly 100 countries had recently expressed their support to China on Xinjiang-related issues “and their objection to interference in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of human rights”.

This support was voiced through public statements at the last U.N. Human Rights Council session, which ended on July 8, and through the “joint letter”, Liu added, using a term denoting China and the other signatories.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson told Reuters that Bachelet would have witnessed a “real Xinjiang with a safe and stable society” when she visited the region during her May trip to China.

The spokesperson said attempts by some countries to “smear China’s image” using the Xinjiang issue would not succeed.

It was not clear whether Bachelet had received the letter, and an OHCHR spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.

The Xinjiang report is being finalised prior to public release, he added, saying this includes the standard practice of sharing a copy with China for its comments.

The report is set to address China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority. A team of rights experts began gathering evidence for it more than three years ago but its release has been delayed for months for unclear reasons.

Reuters was not able to establish how many signatures the letter received. One of the four sources, a Geneva-based diplomat, replied to the letter positively giving his country’s support.

Another version of the letter also seen by Reuters was more critical of Bachelet’s actions, saying that the Xinjiang report was done “without mandate and in serious breach of OHCHR duties”, and would undermine her personal credibility.

It was not clear who edited it or why. The diplomat who signed the letter said the softer version was the final one.

DIRECT LOBBYING

China, like other countries, sometimes seeks to drum up support for its political statements within the Geneva-based rights council through diplomatic memos which others are asked to support.

These can sometimes influence decisions at the 47-member Council, whose actions are not legally binding but can authorise investigations into suspected violations.

Two of the Geneva diplomats said China’s letter represents a rare example of evidence of Beijing seeking to lobby Bachelet directly. Sometimes, they say, countries find it hard to say no to China on human rights issues, given close economic ties.

The memo comes at a critical juncture for the U.N. rights body in the last few weeks of Bachelet’s term, with no successor yet nominated. Bachelet, 70, is due to leave office on Aug. 31.


Source : Reuters

Chart: UN Budget – Who Has Paid Their Dues?

Source : Statista