The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said in a report that the detentions of Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) could represent international crimes and human rights violations.
In late May, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet paid a long-awaited UN official visit to China to report on alleged human rights abuses in XUAR. It was the first trip to the country by the UN human rights chief since 2005.
“The information currently available to OHCHR on implementation of the Government’s stated drive against terrorism and ‘extremism’ in XUAR in the period 2017- 2019 and potentially thereafter, also raises concerns from the perspective of international criminal law. 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,” the organization said in a statement on Wednesday, the last day of Bachelet on the job.
Xinjiang is China’s largest region, where 25 million people of various ethnic backgrounds live, including 43% of Uyghurs, most of whom are Muslim. The region, bordering seven countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, has been considered an epicenter of terrorism and extremism for many years.
At the end of August 2018, experts from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reported that up to 1 million ethnic Uyghurs could be in Beijing-run “re-education camps” in Xinjiang.
Beijing has denied the existence of “re-education camps” on numerous occasions, insisting that the country is fully complying with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
At the same time, various human rights and non-governmental organizations around the world have reported persistent violations of human rights in XUAR and criticized the United Nations and Bachelet for allegedly not doing enough to address human rights issues in the province.