UN to publish findings soon on abuses in Xinjiang

Workers at a cotton textile factory in Korla, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on April 1, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA (REUTERS) - The United Nations' human rights office is finalising its assessment of the situation in China's Xinjiang region, where Uighurs are alleged to have been unlawfully detained, mistreated and forced to work, a spokesman said on Friday (Dec 10).

Mr Rupert Colville said the office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet hoped to publish its report in the coming weeks and that there had been "no concrete progress" in long-running talks with Chinese officials on a proposed visit.

Earlier on Friday, an unofficial Britain-based tribunal of lawyers and campaigners said Chinese President Xi Jinping bore primary responsibility for what it said was genocide, crimes against humanity and torture of Uighurs and members of other minorities in the Xinjiang region. China dismissed the tribunal, which has no powers of sanction or enforcement, as a "farce".

"The Uighurs tribunal has brought to light more information that is deeply disturbing in relation to the treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang," Mr Colville told a UN briefing in Geneva.

"We have of course similarly identified patterns of arbitrary detention and ill-treatment in institutions, coercive labour practices and erosion of social and cultural rights in general," he said.

China's mission to the UN in Geneva, in a statement issued on Saturday, said it had frequently extended an invitation to Ms Bachelet for a "friendly visit".

"However, this visit shall in no way become the so-called 'investigation' under the presumption of guilt," it said.

If her office were only interested in "political manipulation of anti-China forces in the US and the West", then this would cast serious doubt on its impartiality, it added.

In June, Ms Bachelet publicly suggested a timeline for a visit this year. She has been negotiating the terms of such a visit since September 2018, when allegations first emerged that some one million Uighurs had been detained in mass camps.

Her findings need to be shared with the Beijing government before they can be made public, Mr Colville said.

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