With only 11 minutes to spare, outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, released her long-awaited damning report on the Uyghur Region. The bottom line? China has committed “serious human rights violations” which may amount to crimes against humanity.
The Guardian reports that the Chinese government made attempts until the very last moments to stop the report from being published. They claim the report is “based on the disinformation and lies fabricated by anti-China forces”.
“Crimes against humanity”
The report details a thorough review of testimonies and research that began back in 2018, claiming a delay in visit and conclusive reporting due to the COVID pandemic. Bachelet finally visited China this year making her the first of her post to visit in 17 years. While there, she was given access to the Uyghur Region.
After months of silence, the report is explicit in accusing China of human rights violations: “The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups, pursuant to law and policy, in context of restrictions and deprivation more generally of fundamental rights enjoyed individually and collectively, may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
According to the Guardian,
The report also pushed back on China’s rejection of forced labour accusations, finding them to appear discriminatory in nature or effect, and to involve elements of coercion. It said the labour schemes were closely linked to the anti-extremism framework and arbitrary detention, which “raises concerns in terms of the extent to which such programmes can be fully voluntary”.
What comes next?
Though her report was delayed to the very last minute, it is incriminating enough to pave the way for further investigations and interventions by the international community. It also calls on businesses to take “all possible measures” to adhere to international human rights standards.
According to Freedom United Executive Director, Joanna Ewart-James, “Given the abuses documented, this can only be achieved by ending business relationships with companies linked to the Uyghur Region and the forced labour system.”
Uyghur rights advocates, including 63 Uyghur groups, welcomed the report and have wasted no time calling for governments, businesses and the international community at large to act. The Coalition to End Uyghur Forced Labor has issued a statement urging world leaders to pressure the Chinese government to end their forced labor system.
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