From our regional correspondent in Tokyo (Japan)
Despite very strong Chinese pressure, Michelle Bachelet, head of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights based in Geneva, kept her promise in extremis. On the last day of her four-year mandate on Wednesday August 31, she published her fifty-page report on Chinese human rights violations in Xinjiang. Without openly evoking a “genocidal” Chinese strategy, this report nevertheless very clearly denounces possible “crimes against humanity” committed by the Chinese authorities in Xinjiang.
“In this sense, this report is already satisfactory” reacted on his Twitter account Jing-Jie Chen, researcher at the non-governmental human rights organization Safeguard Defenders, based in Madrid, “because it raises concerns about the reality of human rights abuses by China”.
In his eyes, this official denunciation on the part of the UN agency legitimizes all the work of the many NGOs which have for years denounced the drama of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang. Even if it took time to obtain such a denunciation on such a level. This document affixes the seal of the UN to the accusations leveled for a long time against the Chinese authorities.
Short visit to Xinjiang
Following numerous accusations of human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities that have come to the attention of Michelle Bachelet since late 2017, the latter informed the Council of human rights in 2021 of the need for a “independent assessment”. Last May, she was the first UN human rights official to visit China since 2005, after years of tough negotiations with Beijing over the terms of her visit.
The publication of its report on Wednesday August 31 had been the subject of intense pressure from those who wanted to make it public – in particular from the United States and major human rights NGOs – and, conversely, to prevent it to see the light of day from Beijing, which sees the report as a « farce » orchestrated by Westerners, led by Washington.
“Victory for human rights”
In it, the UN called on the international community to act urgently in the face of accusations of ” torture and sexual violence in Xinjiang that the organization deems “credible”. “Allegations of recurring practices of torture or ill-treatment, including forced medical treatment and poor prison conditions, are credible, as are individual allegations of sexual and gender-based violence”denounces the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in the report.
“This indictment against China committing crimes against humanity against the Uighurs is also a victory for human rights around the world” also reacted Rayan E. Asat, a human rights lawyer in New York whose brother Ekpar Asat, an entrepreneur, is imprisoned in Xinjiang. This report “lays bare China’s massive human rights violations”said Sophie Richardson, director of the NGO Human Rights Watch for China. “This report paves the way for serious and tangible action by Member States, UN agencies and businesses”rejoiced Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress and to add: “The time for accountability is now”.
Predictably, China is furious. The document is based “on disinformation and lies fabricated by anti-China forces” et “wantonly defames and slanders China and interferes in China’s internal affairs”, writes the Chinese Embassy to the UN in Geneva in the commentary attached to the report. For her part, Michelle Bachelet, accused of being too lenient towards Beijing, replied: “Dialogue and trying to understand better does not mean that we are tolerant, that we look away or that we close our eyes. And even less that one cannot speak frankly ». It is done.