Beijing slams UN report which finds serious human rights violations in Xinjiang

A high-security facility near what is believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained in Xinjiang. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING - China called a United Nations report that concluded there are serious human rights violations in the Xinjiang region "a hodgepodge of false information", and dismissed its recommendations to investigate and redress what could amount to crimes against humanity.

"The so-called assessment report is completely illegal and invalid, and is planned and manufactured by the United States and some Western forces," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin during a regular briefing on Thursday.

China's mission in Geneva also panned the UN report as a farce based on false information and lies, and the assumption of guilt.

Beijing has been trying for weeks to halt the publication of the report by the office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who visited Xinjiang in May.

The strongly worded 48-page UN report, released on Wednesday just minutes before Ms Bachelet's four-year term in office ended, concluded that "serious" human rights violations have been committed against Uighurs and other ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang in the name of counter-terrorism.

It also said the "extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of Uighur and other predominantly Muslim groups", may constitute "international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity".

China, which has repeatedly denied any abuses against its Uighur ethnic minority that number about 11 million in Xinjiang, issued a chorus of condemnation as well as its own 131-page response to the UN report on Wednesday.

Titled Fight Against Terrorism And Extremism In Xinjiang: Truth And Facts, the report said Beijing's "painstaking efforts" had eradicated terrorist activities and the rampant spread of extremism in Xinjiang.

Ms Bachelet's office said its assessment was based on an extensive body of documentation and in-depth interviews with 40 people "with direct and first-hand knowledge of the situation in Xinjiang". It said 26 of these interviewees had been either detained or had worked in various facilities there.

The report added that it was "reasonable to conclude that a pattern of large-scale arbitrary detention occurred in vocational educational and training centres (VETCs)" from at least 2017 to 2019.

A majority of former detainees interviewed said they were subjected to "treatment that would amount to torture and/or other forces of ill-treatment" in VETCs. Detainees were kept from speaking their own language and practising their own religion, and were forced to sing patriotic songs, the report added.

"Some also spoke of various forms of sexual violence, including some instances of rape, affecting mainly women. These accounts included having been forced by guards to perform oral sex in the context of an interrogation and various forms of sexual humiliation, including forced nudity," said the report.

"Allegations of patterns of torture or ill-treatment, including forced medical treatment and adverse conditions of detention, are credible, as are allegations of individual incidents of sexual and gender-based violence."

The 48-page UN report concluded that "serious" human rights violations have been committed in Xinjiang. PHOTO: AFP

While the report acknowledged a lack of information to draw firm conclusions as to the extent of such abuses, the UN office recommended that Beijing takes prompt steps to release all those detained in training centres, prisons or other facilities and investigate allegations of human rights violations.

Mr Wang on Thursday also said Beijing "naturally completely rejects" the UN's recommendations.

"The report is a hodgepodge of false information to serve the political purposes of the US and Western side, it is a political tool to pressure China," he said.

Beijing said these VETCs are part of its strategy to deradicalise groups involved in extremist or terrorist activities and to help equip trainees with economic skills and knowledge.

Its report denied that the centres were concentration camps, calling them learning facilities "aimed at bringing together, educating and rehabilitating those who have committed minor offences and crimes under the influence of extremist thoughts".

"Xinjiang now enjoys social stability, economic development, rising living standards, cultural prosperity, ethnic unity and religious harmony," added the report.

Despite Beijing's vocal rejection of the UN report, there was no mention of the report or China's rebuttal in state media.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.