China: UN report denounces crimes against humanity in Xinjiang

China: UN report denounces crimes against humanity in Xinjiang

The organization calls on the international community to act urgently in the face of accusations of torture and sexual violence against the Uyghur minority, which it considers “credible”.

Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, for whom it was the last day at the head of the High Commissioner after a four-year term, thus keeps her promise in extremis by allowing the document to be published shortly before midnight in Geneva. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The long-awaited UN report on the Chinese region of Xinjiang, published in extremis on Wednesday August 31, evokes possible “crimes against humanity” and mentions “credible evidence” of torture and sexual violence against of the Uyghur minority and calls on the international community to act. “The extent of the arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of the Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim groups … may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity,” the report says. less than fifty pages in its conclusions.

Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, for whom it was the last day at the head of the High Commission after a four-year term, thus keeps her promise in extremis by allowing the document to be published shortly before midnight in Geneva. If it does not seem to contain any revelations compared to what was already known about the situation in Xinjiang, this document brings the seal of the UN to the accusations leveled for a long time against the Chinese authorities.

Its publication had been the subject of intense pressure from supporters to implement it – notably from the United States and major human rights NGOs – and, conversely, to prevent it. to see the light of day from Beijing, which sees the report as a “farce” orchestrated by Westerners, Washington in the lead.

In this document, the UN called on the international community to act urgently in the face of accusations of torture and sexual violence in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, which the organization considers “credible”. “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,” writes the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in the report.

“Better late than never. It will be a decisive moment,” Sophie Richardson, director of the NGO Human Rights Watch for China, told AFP before the release of the document. She felt it would show “that no state is above the law.” More than the content, it is the existence and the publication that are important in his eyes because that will oblige the United Nations Human Rights Council to take up the case.

“Forced” sterilizations and abortions

On the other hand, China kept repeating all the bad things it thought of the document. At the UN in New York (United States), the Chinese ambassador Zhang Jun reaffirmed Wednesday “to be firmly opposed to the report”. “The so-called Xinjiang problem is a totally fabricated and politically motivated lie” that is holding back China’s development, he said, accusing Michelle Bachelet of “meddling in China’s internal affairs”.

For her part, Michelle Bachelet – accused of being too lenient towards Beijing – replied that dialogue with the Chinese authorities, as she notably did during a controversial trip to China in May, “does not mean turning a blind eye” .

A quick search in the text of the UN does not bring up the word genocide. An accusation brought against Beijing by the American government. In January, the French National Assembly, following in the footsteps of the representation of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands or even Canada, had also qualified as “genocide” the treatment of the Uyghurs by China.

Xinjiang and other provinces of China have been hit for several decades, and in particular from 2009 to 2014, by attacks attributed to Islamists or Uyghur separatists. For several years, the region has been the subject of intense surveillance: ubiquitous cameras, security gates in buildings, armed forces very visible in the streets, restrictions on the issuance of passports…

Western studies, based on interpretations of official documents, testimonies of alleged victims and statistical extrapolations, accuse Beijing of having interned in “camps” at least a million people, mostly Uyghurs, of carrying out sterilizations and abortions “forced”, or to impose “forced labour”. China denies these accusations. Beijing also presents the “camps” as “vocational training centers” intended to distance the inhabitants from religious extremism, and which would now be closed because all the “students” would have “completed their training”.

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