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A brave statement

The European Commission, responding to the report, said it strongly condemns human rights violations in China.

Statesman News Service |

The symbol of the comity of nations since the 1940s has spoken bravely, if a tad circumspectly. The United Nations on Thursday advanced its longawaited report on China, one that constitutes damning evidence of the country’s “arbitrary and discriminatory detention” of Uyghurs and other Muslims in its Xinjiang region. To say the least, the calibrated repression may constitute crimes against humanity, to quote the outgoing UN human rights chief. Indeed, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who some diplomats and rights groups had criticised as being soft on China, released the report just minutes before her four-year term ended. She had visited China in May. The People’s Republic of China has vigorously denied any abuses in Xinjiang and issued a 131-page response to the 48-page UN report. The reaction of Beijing has been vigorous, though not strained.

Not the least because President Xi Jinping’s administration is scarcely in a position to bin the UN report, which crafted by the world body’s human rights office said that “serious human rights violations have been committed” in Xinjiang in the context of the government’s application of “counter-terrorism and counter-extremism strategies”. The UN has hit the bull’s eye with the remark that “the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.” It recommended that the Chinese government take prompt steps to release all those detained in training centres, prisons or detention facilities. And then the punchline ~ “There are credible indications of violations of reproductive rights through the coercive enforcement of family planning policies since 2017,” the office said.

The lack of government data “makes it difficult to draw conclusions on the full extent of current enforcement of these policies and associated violations of reproductive rights.” For all its protests and claims of a West-led conspirary to defame it, China is destined for a bout of unsplendid isolation. Rights groups have in the past as well accused Beijing of abuses against Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority that numbers around 10 million in the western region of Xinjiang, including the mass use of forced labour in internment camps. The United States has accused China of genocide. The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, welcomed the report’s release on Thursday, saying it “deepens and reaffirms our grave concern regarding the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity” against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups.

The European Commission, responding to the report, said it strongly condemns human rights violations in China. The UN spokesperson said the Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, hopes China will “take on board the recommendations” in the report. While China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, described the report as “completely illegal and void”, the US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said Washington would work with allies to demand an end to China’s abuses.

A version of this story appears in the print edition of the September 5, 2022, issue.