Michelle Bachelet, a former Chilean president and the outgoing human rights commissioner of the United Nations, accused China on Wednesday, 31 August, of committing "serious human rights violations" against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang which may even be tantamount to crimes against humanity.
Bachelet's report, published only 11 minutes before her term officially ended, stated that "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."
China responded with a 121-page counter-report, which emphasised the need to deal with threat of "terrorism" posed by the extremists. It also argued that the state program of "de-radicalisation" and "vocational education and training centres" had brought stability to Xinjiang.
In a statement, Beijing added, "This so-called 'assessment' is a politicised document that ignores the facts, and fully exposes the intention of the US, Western countries and anti-China forces to use human rights as a political tool."
Uyghur Human Rights Project Executive Director Omer Kanat said that "this is a game-changer for the international response to the Uyghur crisis. Despite the Chinese government's strenuous denials, the UN has now officially recognized that horrific crimes are occurring," BBC reported.
The report stated that the Uyghur prisoners had been subjected to "patterns of ill-treatment" which included "incidents of sexual and gender-based violence."
There are about 12 million Uyghurs, mostly Muslim, living in what is officially known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
China has been accused of interning millions in concentration camps, forcibly mass sterilising Uyghur women, separating children from their families, and trying to erase the cultural traditions of the community, all of which may account to genocide under the international convention, which states that any "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group" could constitute genocide.
(With inputs from Reuters, The Guardian, and the BBC.)