China. UN cites ‘crimes against humanity’ in Xinjiang

The date of submission of the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the abuses in Xinjiang says everything about the difficulty of the exercise. On August 31, three months after her visit to the Chinese province, on the last day of her term, Michelle Bachelet ultimately released a long-awaited document.

Contrary to the resolution adopted by the French National Assembly and the United States administration which evoke a “genocide” against the Uyghur minority, the UN report prefers to mention possible “crimes against humanity” in western China.

Torture and sexual violence

The instance thus states that “credible evidence” torture and sexual violence: “Allegations of recurring practices of torture or ill-treatment, including forced medical treatment and poor prison conditions, are credible, as are individual allegations of sexual and gender-based violence,” notes the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. In this case, the UN does not bring any revelation in relation to the facts already denounced by associations, but now gives them an official character.

One more step, whereas in May Michelle Bachelet had explained that her trip was in no way a ” investigation “. The former president of Chile had, however, called for “repeal” from “system of house arrest and arbitrary detention” in Xinjiang and expressed concern about the separation of families. She was then the target of numerous criticisms, some of which, from civil society, demanded her resignation.

The document “changes the game”

Like Amnesty International, organizations are now calling on the UN Human Rights Council to go further and “(establish) an international independent mechanism to investigate”.

In the absence of access to the territory, it is difficult to say whether in-depth investigations can be carried out, but the organization The Uyghur Human Rights Project, based in Washington, already considers that the UN document “game changer”.

The report unsurprisingly provokes the ire of Beijing, which calls it ” prank call “ and interference in its affairs. At a time when tensions with the United States are at their highest, especially around Taiwan, the Chinese mission in Geneva vilifies the instrumentalization of the UN by the “anti-Chinese forces”.

At the end of August, the High Commissioner for Human Rights slipped that she had been subjected to “considerable pressures”. In a letter signed by China and forty other countries, she would have been asked to draw a line under the work in progress, when associations asked her not to water down the report.

For Beijing, “vocational training”…

Beijing has consistently denied the charges of extrajudicial detention, torture, forced labor and mass sterilization. This last point would fall under one of the five criteria of genocide defined by the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948.

In 2020, the Chinese State Council conceded that 1.3 million people a year were simply given “vocational training” from 2014 to 2019 to prevent religious extremism after a series of attacks perpetrated from 2013 to 2014. Cautious, the UN estimates that a “significant proportion” Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities were effectively interned.


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