UN must act on abuses in China's Xinjiang: rights groups

1 min 30Approximate reading time

Rights groups called Thursday on the United Nations to take action nearly two years after the publication of a report detailing a litany of violations in China's Xinjiang region.

In a statement slammed by China, four leading rights organisations urged UN rights chief Volker Turk to "provide a public update of measures taken by the Chinese government and by his office to address the human rights situation in Xinjiang".

"The ongoing absence of public reporting by the high commissioner to follow-up the atrocity crimes documented by his own office, risks undermining the trust placed in his office by victims and survivors," warned Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Service for Human Rights, and the World Uyghur Congress.

Turk's predecessor Michelle Bachelet published a report in August 2022, citing possible "crimes against humanity" in Xinjiang.

It detailed violations against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, urging the world to pay "urgent attention" to rights in the region.

The report -- harshly criticised by Beijing -- highlighted "credible" allegations of widespread torture, arbitrary detention and violations of religious and reproductive rights.

- 'Double-standards' -

Speaking to diplomats on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Human Rights Watch Asia director Elaine Pearson highlighted the "gravity of the report".

"Now it's up to the UN high commissioner to make full use of that report to improve the situation for Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang."

The rights groups acknowledged that Turk had vowed to continue to "engage" with China on rights issues, including in Xinjiang, but that he had never provided "any specifics about his engagement with the government, a substantive update on the situation in Xinjiang, nor an assessment of the implementation of the report recommendations by his office".

In the meantime, Beijing had "continued to arbitrarily imprison hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs" as part of its crackdown, they said.

Pearson called on the rights council to "ensure that there is independent, international scrutiny and interrogation of violations, particularly when accountability is not being delivered by the government".

"Double-standards have to be avoided. We have to hold China accountable," said Zumretay Arkin, global advocacy director at the World Uyghur Congress.

A number of countries also called for a concrete follow-up to the Xinjiang report, pointing to the finding that crimes against humanity may have been committed.

"A conclusion as serious as that deserves careful attention," insisted the Netherlands ambassador Paul Bekkers. Britain's ambassador Simon Manley asked what the council should do "to ensure that the report's recommendations do not simply gather dust".

A representative for China criticised the event, accusing "a small number of NGOs and Western countries" of acting "as liars and rumour makers to serve their anti-China separatist plots".

The rights groups are meanwhile working to ensure that the UN report's findings are more easily accessible to those on the ground.

While the UN only published its report in English, the groups on Thursday presented their own unofficial translations into the remaining official UN languages: Arabic, French, Russian, Spanish, and Chinese.

Having a version of the report in Chinese is "particularly significant", Pearson told AFP.