The descriptions of people held in so-called vocational training centers revealed patterns of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, it said.
Tensions between the ruling Han Chinese and ethnic minorities have long existed in the Northwest region. Since the bloody riots in 2009 and terrorist attacks, the security forces have been cracking down. Uyghurs complain of cultural and religious oppression, while Beijing accuses Uyghur groups of extremism and separatism. According to human rights activists, hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and members of other minorities have been put in re-education camps. Observers also assume systematic forced labor. After taking power in Beijing in 1949, the communists incorporated the former East Turkestan into the People’s Republic.
“The extent of the arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of the Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim groups (…) could constitute international crimes, particularly crimes against humanity,” the report said. People were denied fundamental rights from 2017 to 2019 and possibly beyond.
China had already rejected all similar allegations by human rights organizations as lies.
According to the report, “arbitrary detentions on a large scale” have taken place in what China has designated as vocational training institutions. The briefing was “a form of deprivation of liberty”. There had been credible reports of rape, but the extent had not been ascertained. “The government’s blanket denial of all allegations, as well as (…) attacks on those who shared their experiences, added to the humiliation and suffering of the survivors,” the report said.
The exact number of those affected could not be determined. The office cites sources that speak of up to a million detainees. People the office spoke to said they were being guarded by gunmen and, contrary to Chinese accounts, could not leave the facilities of their own free will. They had little or no contact with their families and were forced to make positive comments before interviews.
The authorities had extensive power over the detainees and there were no guarantees of protection against abuse. The UN Human Rights Office has complained that the Chinese definitions of terrorism and extremism, which Beijing has used to justify its actions in the region, are vague.
The report was supposed to be published last year. But Bachelet hesitated because she had been negotiating with China for months about being able to travel to the country. She always relied on dialogue, she said on Wednesday evening. “Dialogue (…) does not mean that I condone, overlook or turn a blind eye,” said Bachelet. “And it doesn’t exclude speaking your mind.”
The trip came about in May 2022. Sticking points were, among other things, that the UN human rights office wanted to decide for itself where Bachelet would go and with whom she could speak without supervision by the authorities. Your office said China had responded to the demands. She also traveled to Xinjiang, but towards the end of the visit she refrained from criticizing Beijing’s actions in the region. This brought criticism to Bachelet, including from the federal government. There was no clarification of the accusation of serious human rights violations there, it said in Berlin.
Bachelet was under immense pressure, as she reported last week. While many government officials have been waiting for publication with growing impatience, she has also received a letter from around 40 governments urging her not to publish. She did not name individual countries.
Bachelet has been in office since 2018. She did not run for a second term. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has not yet named a successor.