A UN report holds China accountable for “serious human rights violations” in its Xinjiang province. Find out what the allegations entail and how China is responding to the findings.
I’ve taken some flak about a certain issue over the past few years. I’ve learned not to let barbs from readers bother me, but put-downs are still a good way to take the temperature of a particular topic.
In this case, the feverish subject is human rights in China. There are a lot of people out there making a nice living from trade with the world’s most populous country.
So, for example, westerners who do immigration consulting in China, or own businesses there or work for the Chinese Communist Party don’t take too kindly to seeing these human rights violations in print. Yet, as Confucius said, “To be wealthy and honored in an unjust society is a disgrace.”
Disgruntled Folks Deny Human Rights Issues in Xinjiang
Specifically, these disgruntled folks write to deny human rights issues involving the Uyghur people. The Uyghurs live in the so-called “autonomous region” of Xinjiang.
So, I felt somewhat vindicated this week by a UN report from its Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR). However, since this is a grave issue, I’ll skip saying “I told you so” and explain more about it.
The UN report tells us that “allegations of patterns of torture, or ill-treatment, including forced medical treatment and adverse conditions of detention, are credible, as are allegations of individual incidents of sexual and gender-based violence.” It also says China has imposed “far-reaching, arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms, in violation of international laws and standards.”
First Time UN Staff Have Reached Such Definite Findings
Human rights groups have raised these issues at UN sessions for years, but this is the first time staff have reached such definite findings. The UN report comes after a visit to China by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.
At the core of the human rights abuses in Xinjiang are a series of concentration camps called “Vocational Educational and Training Centres (VETCs).” China claims that these are part of a counter-terrorism strategy.
Xinjiang used to be called East Turkestan or Uyghurstan. Communist China invaded it in 1949. They called it “the peaceful liberation of Xinjiang” and started falsely calling the occupied territory an “autonomous region.”
Similar to Tibet Without as Much Attention
It was similar to what happened in Tibet but without as much attention. As you can guess from the former name of the region ethnically, its people are Turkik.
The Uyghurs and other Xinjiang residents neither look nor speak Chinese. As you might expect, most of them are Muslims.
None of this sits well with the leaders of Communist China or most Chinese people, known ethnically as Hans. As a communist country, China takes a dim view of all religions. Ideology aside, the Han people tend to view themselves as the “real” Chinese, with higher status than China’s ethnic minorities.
Ever since the takover, there’s been a separatist movement in Xinjiang. They’ve had sporadic clashes with China’s People’s Liberation Army.
China’s Government Tends to Label Uyghurs as Terrorists
As a result, China’s government tends to label all Uyghurs as terrorists. To gain the upper hand, it started building the VETCs in 2014 and expanded on them in 2017.
Reports about unacceptable conditions in these camps have been leaking out for years. We’ve been hearing about authorities arbitrarily capturing people and taking them to the VETCs, with no explanation to their families.
Inside the camps, former residents report being tortured, starved, forced to undergo medical procedures, raped and seeing other inmates die in custody. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both described the treatment of Uyghurs in the VETCs as “cultural genocide.”
“Assessed in Accordance with Standard Human Rights Methodology”
The issues in Xinjiang led to this new UN report. It’s based on “a rigorous of review of documentary material currently available to the Office, with its credibility assessed in accordance with standard human rights methodology.”
The UN report acknowledges the alleged violations took place in the context of a government program of counter-terrorism and anti-extremism. Even so, it condemns China’s widespread use of re-education camps, even for violent militants.
In addition, policies in Communist China have “led to interlocking patterns of severe and undue restrictions on a wide range of human rights,” according to the UN report. China claims it’s been phasing out the VETCs, but even if that’s true, they’re only part of the issue.
“Interlocking Patterns of Severe and Undue Restrictions”
The OHCHR found that a series of laws and policies have “led to interlocking patterns of severe and undue restrictions on a wide range of human rights.” This is because the camps “come against the backdrop of broader discrimination” against Xinjiang’s Muslims, according to the UN report.
There have been “far-reaching, arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms, in violation of international standards,” the UN report says. These have included restrictions on freedom of religion, freedom of movement and privacy rights.
The recommendations call on the government of Communist China to take “prompt steps” to release everyone who’s been arbitrarily imprisoned in Xinjiang. This includes those held in camps and those held in any other detention facilities.
Communist China is Once Again Denying Everything
Communist China is once again denying everything. They say that “the accusation that its policy is ‘based on discrimination’ is groundless.” They say their “de-radicalization efforts” were conducted according to “the rule of law.”
Beijing continues to insist that the camps “are learning facilities in accordance with law intended for de-radicalization.” They continue to deny that the VETCs are concentration camps.
In a textbook case of whataboutism, China called for the UN to investigate “the human rights disasters caused, and numerous crimes committed, by the US and some other Western countries, both at home and abroad.” Two wrongs don’t make a right. This is merely a diversion to change the subject.
Humanity Needs to Root Out Discrimination
For the record, Dare to Know condemns all human rights violations committed by the US or any other country. Humanity needs to root out discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, gender or other protected grounds wherever it happens.
A new awareness is arising that we’re all citizens of the world. We no longer accept notions like racial superiority, religious intolerance, sexism or ethnic cleansing.
Last Gasp of Dying Mentality on Its Deathbed
At times it may seem that these flashes of abuse indicate that racism and bigotry are making a comeback. I’m inclined to think they’re the last gasps of an obsolete mentality on its deathbed.
Upon releasing the UN report, the OHCHR offered its aid, announcing that “The UN Human Rights Office stands ready to support China in addressing the issues and recommendations articulated in this assessment.”
We always have more to learn if we dare to know.
China responsbile for ‘serious human rights violations’ in Xinjiang province
OHCHR Assessment of human rights concerns in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, People’s Republic of China
China’s Poor Human Rights Record Highlights HRW Report
China Cables: Secret Muslim Persecution Exposed
China’s Secret Muslim Persecution