In the last few moments of her term as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet’s office Wednesday released a long-awaited report on alleged human rights violations in China’s Xinjiang region. This comes despite immense pressure from the authorities in Beijing not to publish the report.
The report, titled “OHCHR Assessment of human rights concerns in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region [XUAR], People’s Republic of China,” accuses China of actions that “may constitute international crimes, in particular, crimes against humanity” in its mass detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, under the auspices of anti-terrorism or anti-extremism policies:
Serious human rights violations have been committed in XUAR in the context of the Government’s application of counter-terrorism and counter-“extremism” strategies. The implementation of these strategies, and associated policies in XUAR has led to interlocking patterns of severe and undue restrictions on a wide range of human rights. These patterns of restrictions are characterized by a discriminatory component, as the underlying acts often directly or indirectly affect Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim communities.
The office focuses on a range of allegations, including forced labor camps and other forms of arbitrary detention, as well as discriminatory reproductive policies targeting the Uyghur minority.
The report makes a number of recommendations, including urging the Chinese government to take “prompt steps to release all individuals arbitrarily deprived of their liberty,” “urgent clarification on the whereabouts of individuals whose families have been seeking information about their loved ones in XUAR,” “a full review of the legal framework governing national security,” and that China “urgently repeal all discriminatory laws, policies and practices against Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities in XUAR.”
The OHCHR recommended that the business community “[t]akes all possible measures to meet the responsibility to respect human rights across activities and business relationships.” The report also urged the international community to “further refrain from returning members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities to China who are at risk of refoulement and provide humanitarian assistance, including medical and psycho-social support, to victims in the States in which they are located.”
Bachelet’s report marks her final act as High Commissioner after four years in the role she assumed on September 1, 2018.