US says China must be held to account on Uighur 'genocide' after UN report

A 2019 photo shows the entrance to an indoctrination centre in Hotan, China. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that a long-awaited United Nations report reaffirmed the US view that China is committing "genocide" against the Uighurs and called for Beijing to be held responsible.

Mr Blinken said that the United States welcomes the important report, released minutes before UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet - who was strongly criticised by Washington for a recent visit to China - left office.

"This report deepens and reaffirms our grave concern regarding the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity that PRC government authorities are perpetrating against Uighurs," he said in a statement, referring to the People's Republic of China.

"We will continue to hold the PRC to account and call on the PRC to release those unjustly detained, account for those disappeared, and allow independent investigators full and unhindered access to Xinjiang, Tibet and across the PRC," he said.

The landmark UN report detailed a string of rights violations including torture and forced labour against Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities, infuriating Beijing.

The report said China may have committed "crimes against humanity" but stopped short of calling its treatment of the Uighurs "genocide", an accusation made since early 2021 by the US and since embraced by legislatures in several other Western nations.

Separately, the White House called on China on Thursday to immediately cease “atrocities” against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities and urged Beijing to allow unfettered access to Xinjiang.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the US welcomed the report.

“We will call on China to immediately cease committing these atrocities,” she told reporters, urging China to allow independent investigators full and unhindered access to the region.

Beijing hit back hard against the report and maintained firm opposition to its release, sharing a more-than-100-page document from the Xinjiang provincial government defending its policies.

“The so-called critical report you mentioned is planned and manufactured firsthand by the US and some Western forces, it is wholly illegal and invalid,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular briefing on Thursday.

“The report is a hodgepodge of misinformation, and it is a political tool which serves as part of the West’s strategy of using Xinjiang to control China,” he said during a regular media briefing in Beijing. AFP, REUTERS

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