The UN has said that, after a lengthy independent investigation, has concluded that China may have committed crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minoritiesby applying policies that have led to their massive arbitrary detention and other serious abuses against them.
In a historic position statement against China, which was broadcast minutes before midnight (local time) when the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights ended, Michelle Bachelet, your body has confirmed that the anti-terrorism legislation led to the “large-scale deprivation of liberty” of these minorities, at least between 2017 and 2019.
Since then the pattern seems to have changed and internment centers -called by the government “vocational education centers”- have been reduced in size and number, but arrests continue to occur through criminal proceedings resulting in the imprisonment of mostly Uyghurs. To this end, the Chinese Government continues to use the same argument: the fight against terrorism and extremism, with which for decades official policy has identified the Muslim minorities settled in Xinjiang, one of the five autonomous regions of China, with a large territorial extension and that is its access to Central Asia.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights maintains that it considers credible the allegations that in detention centers tortureswhich in some cases included forced medical treatmentalthough he acknowledges that he cannot draw definitive conclusions about the extent of these abuses.
The government attitude towards the Uyghurs has been based on their perception that they are a threat, which has led to the restriction of their freedoms and rights. Among them the right to freedom of religion, expression, movement and privacy. Even “there are serious indications of violations of reproductive rights through the forced application of family planning programs and birth control.”
the policies of Beijing against this and other minorities – such as the Kazakhs – also includes the separation of families and interruption of contacts with other people.
Despite the difficulties and the fact that China did not authorize UN human rights experts to visit the region to collect information directly, Bachelet’s Office was able to interview people who were detained in detention centers and who explain that his ordeal began with an initial detention at a police station. There, many reported having been interrogated before being sent to detention centers, without having had access to a legal defense or a way to oppose their transfer.
“None of those interviewed said that they were able to leave the facilities or visit their home,” with confinement times ranging from two to 18 months. In no case were they informed how long they would remain in those places, which were guarded by armed personnel. All were warned that once outside they should speak well of the center and refrain from giving information about its real nature. This situation was possible thanks to Chinese anti-terrorism legislation is vague and its very broad concepts, allowing officials to interpret it at their discretion, according to the report.
In this investigation, Nations does not offer specific figures on the number of people who came to be in these camps, where in recent years it has been stated that a million people were interned. However, the analysis of different sources of information -including official sources- allows him to calculate that between 10% and 20% of the adult population belonging to an ethnic minority residing in various counties and towns of Xinjiang could have been detained between 2017 and 2018.
The reasons for such a fate were as broad as they were absurd: having too many children, being born in certain years, have been in jail, wear a veil or have a beard, have applied for a passport and not have left the countrytraveled abroad or downloaded the messaging app WhatsApp.
For decades, Xinjiang has been a Chinese region with a clear Muslim majority, although the demographic balance has changed in recent times with incentives given to Han Chinese (majority) to move to live there.
According to a 2021 report by the human rights organization Human Rights Watch, andl 21% of recorded arrests in all of China occurred in Xinjiangdespite having less than 2% of the national population.
As a corollary, heBachelet’s Office calls for the release of all arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang, that the whereabouts of those who are wanted by their families be clarified, that the legislation against terrorism be reviewed in its entirety and that the cases of destruction of Muslim mosques and cemeteries be investigated. After more than a year working on the report, Bachelet’s Office delayed its publication until this Friday after China invited the High Commissioner to visit the country last May, which resulted in a restricted mission justified by the restrictions of the pandemic.