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UN Waters Down Evidence of Genocide in Report on Xinjiang
The United Nations Human Rights Office released a long-awaited report on the Chinese government’s “serious human rights violations” in Xinjiang, detailing the “widespread arbitrary deprivation of liberty” of Uyghur Muslims and other Turkic minorities. “The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups … may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
Regarding the Chinese Communist Party’s vast system of reeducation camps across the region—which the government refers to as “vocational and education” facilities—the UN noted: “Not a single interviewee said they were able to exit the facility or go home.” A consistent theme was “constant hunger and, consequently, significant to severe weight loss during their periods in the facilities.”
Nearly all respondents described forced “injections, pills or both.” Interviewees reported family members taken arbitrarily to camps of unknown location for indefinite duration: “despite attempts at clarifying the whereabouts with the authorities, their fate remained unknown.” Women reported sex crimes, sexual interrogation, and “various forms of sexual humiliation.” The UN also noted “a consistent pattern of invasive electronic surveillance that can be, and are, directed at the Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim populations.”
During the final hours before issuance of the report, the UN watered down the section on forced sterilization—a particularly sensitive area for Beijing, as it is especially strong evidence of genocide—admitting only that “coercive measures are likely to have accompanied the strict enforcement of family planning policies.” Still, the conspicuous decline in the birth rate across Xinjiang was difficult to ignore. “The birth rate in Xinjiang dropped approximately 48.7 percent” in two years, “from 15.88 per thousand in 2017 to 8.14 per thousand in 2019.”
The UN likewise stopped short of acknowledging widespread documentation of forced labor, admitting only “that labour and employment schemes … appear to be discriminatory in nature or effect and to involve elements of coercion.”
Still, many Uyghur and human rights activists considered the report a victory in light of the low standards that the UN has recently set for itself. Though the downplaying of evidence of genocide, in deference to Beijing, was “a final insult to Uyghur survivors,” the fact that the organization was willing to acknowledge any of these facts at all is a blow to the CCP, whose apologists among western institutions and developing-world governments generally prefer to take Beijing’s word for it that none of these things are occurring.
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