China may have committed crimes against humanity in Xinjiang: UN

Geneva, Sep 1 (EFE).- China’s has committed “serious human rights violations” against Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang province that may amount to crimes against humanity, the United Nations said Wednesday.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet released the result of her investigation in a report just minutes before her term ended at midnight, Geneva time.

The 45-page report concluded that “serious human rights violations have been committed in XUAR [Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region] in the context of the Government’s application of counter-terrorism and counter-“extremism” strategies.”

“The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups, pursuant to law and policy, in context of restrictions and deprivation more generally of fundamental rights enjoyed individually and collectively, may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity,” it added.

The damning report also said there had been “large-scale imprisonment and deprivation of liberty” in Xinjiang, at least between 2017 and 2019.

The detentions over that period “were marked by patterns of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, other violations of the right of persons deprived of their liberty to be treated humanely and with dignity, as well as violations of the right to health,” and the reported added that allegations of gender-based violence including rape “appear credible.”

In a 131-page response, the Chinese government said the report was “based on the disinformation and lies fabricated by anti-China forces” and “wantonly smears and slanders China,” and that “people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are living a happy life in peace and contentment.”

The government calls the Xinjiang internment camps “vocational education and training centers,” and arrests continue to occur through criminal proceedings that result in the imprisonment of mainly Uyghurs.

To this end, the Chinese government continues to use the same justification: the fight against terrorism and extremism, with which for decades official policy has singled-out Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, one of the five autonomous regions of China, with a vast territory bordering Central Asia.

The report said allegations that torture was practiced in detention centers, which in some cases included forced medical treatment, were “credible,” although it recognizes that it cannot draw definitive conclusions about the extent of these abuses.

The central government’s attitude towards the Uyghurs has been based on their perception that they are a security threat, which has led to restrictions on their freedoms and rights – among them the right to freedom of religion, expression, movement and privacy.

“There are serious indications of violations of reproductive rights through the coercive and discriminatory enforcement of family planning and birth control policies,” the report said.

Beijing’s policies against this and other minorities, such as Kazakhs, also include the separation of families and the severing of human contact, it said.

Despite the difficulties and the fact that China did not authorize UN human rights experts to visit the region to collect information directly, Bachelet’s office was able to interview people who had been held in detention centers and who said that their ordeal began with an initial detention at a police station.

There, many reported having been interrogated before being sent to detention centers, without having had access to a legal defense or a way to oppose their transfer.

“Not a single interviewee said they were able to exit the facility or go home for a visit,” with confinement times ranging from two to 18 months, it said. In no case were they informed how long they would remain in those places, which were guarded by armed personnel.

All were warned that they should speak well of the center and, once outside, refrain from disclosing information about the facilities.

This situation was made possible because China’s anti-terrorism legislation is vague and broad in concept, allowing officials to interpret it at their discretion, according to the report.

The UN does not offer specific figures on the number of people in these camps. In recent years it has been stated that 1 million people have been interned.

However, the analysis of various data, including official sources, has allowed it to calculate that between 10-20 percent of the adult population belonging to an ethnic minority residing in various counties and townships of Xinjiang “were subjected to some form of detention between 2017 and 2018.”

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