Posts Tagged ‘Xinjiang’

Disappointment with UN High Commissioner’s visit to Xinjiang boils over

June 9, 2022

Many have been the reactions to the UN High Commissioner’s visit to China, some even expressing doubt BEFORE the visit took place [see: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/24/what-will-the-un-human-rights-commissioner-see-in-xinjiang and https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/05/20/un-rights-chiefs-credibility-stake-china-visit]. The open referred to in the Guardian of 9 June 2022 was signed by academics in wake of Michelle Bachelet’s China visit and demands release of UN report on human rights abuses.

Agnes Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International, said on 28 June that Bachelet should condemn human rights violations in Xinjiang, and call on China to release people arbitrarily detained and end systematic attacks on ethnic minorities in the region. “The high commissioner’s visit has been characterized by photo opportunities with senior government officials and manipulation of her statements by Chinese state media, leaving an impression that she has walked straight into a highly predictable propaganda exercise for the Chinese government,“.

Dozens of scholars have accused the UN human rights chief of having ignored or contradicted academic findings on abuses in Xinjiang with her statements on the region. In an open letter published this week, 39 academics from across Europe, the US and Australia called on Michelle Bachelet to release a long-awaited UN report on human rights abuses in China.

The letter, published online, included some academics with whom Bachelet had consulted prior to her visit to Xinjiang. The letter’s signatories expressed gratitude for this, but said they were “deeply disturbed” by her official statement, delivered at a press conference in Guangzhou at the end of her six-day tour. They said her statement “ignored and even contradicted the academic findings that our colleagues, including two signatories to this letter, provided”.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visits China.

It is rare that an academic field arrives at the level of consensus that specialists in the study of Xinjiang have reached,” the letter said. “While we disagree on some questions of why Beijing is enacting its atrocities in Xinjiang, we are unanimous in our understanding of what it is that the Chinese state is doing on the ground.”.

Rights organisations and several governments have labelled the campaign a genocide or crime against humanity. Beijing denies all allegations of mistreatment and says its policies are to counter terrorism and religious extremism.

At the end of her visit Bachelet said she had urged the Chinese government to review its counter-terrorism policies in Xinjiang and appealed for information about missing Uyghurs. She was quickly criticised by some rights groups for giving few details or condemnation of China while readily giving long unrelated statements about US issues in response to questions from Chinese state media.

The academics’ letter is among growing criticism of Bachelet for not speaking out more forcefully against Chinese abuses after her visit, as well as a continued failure to release the UN report, which is believed to have been completed in late 2021. On Wednesday dozens of rights groups, predominately national and local chapters of organisations associated with Uyghur and Tibetan campaigns, demanded her resignation. See: http://www.phayul.com/2022/06/09/47195/

The 230 organisations accused Bachelet of having “whitewashed the Chinese government’s human rights atrocities” and having “legitimised Beijing’s attempt to cover up its crimes by using the Chinese government’s false ‘counter-terrorism’ framing”.

“The failed visit by the high commissioner has not only worsened the human rights crisis of those living under the Chinese government’s rule, but also severely compromised the integrity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in promoting and protecting human rights globally,” the statement said.

They also decried that she had repeatedly referred to the detention camps in Xinjiang by the Chinese government’s preferred term: “vocational education and training centres”.

All this led to speculation that Mrs Bachelet’s decision not to seek a second term was related to the critcism [see: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/13/un-human-rights-chief-michelle-bachelet-no-second-term-china]

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/09/fury-at-un-human-rights-chief-over-whitewash-of-uyghur-repression

https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2022/05/statement-un-high-commissioner-human-rights-michelle-bachelet-after-official

https://www.npr.org/2022/05/29/1101969720/un-human-rights-chief-asks-china-to-rethink-uyghur-policies?t=1654771491735

Joint letter by 22 States to Human Rights Council re China’s Uighurs

July 12, 2019
A Chinese flag behind razor wire at a housing compound in Yangisar, south of Kashgar, in China’s western Xinjiang region
China is reportedly holding one million people, mostly ethnic Uighurs, in internment camps in Xinjiang Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

UN ambassadors  – including Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Japan – co-signed the letter released Wednesday and sent to the Human Rights Council president, Coly Seck, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

Rights groups and former inmates describe them as “concentration camps” where mainly Muslim Uighurs and other minorities are being forcefully assimilated into China’s majority ethnic Han society. The letter expresses concern “about credible reports of arbitrary detention… as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly targeting Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.” It calls on China to stop arbitrary detention and allow “freedom of movement of Uighurs and other Muslim and minority communities in Xinjiang.” The authors, who include ambassadors from across the EU as well as Switzerland, requested that the letter become an official document of the Human Rights Council, which ends its 41st session in Geneva on Friday. Chinese officials describe the camps as voluntary “vocational education centres” where Turkic-speaking Uighurs receive job training.

The letter may have been the only available option with China having enough support in the UN Council to vote down a formal resolution. See also: ttps://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-xinjiang-rights-idUSKCN1U721X?utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&utm_content=5d28c3e00ca7240001cb2eef&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter

On the same day Human Rights Watch commented: Most importantly, the joint letter sends a strong message that we are moving beyond the era of selectivity, and that no country, large or small, is exempt from the scrutiny of this Council. We understand that the joint letter remains open for additional signatures, and we encourage those delegations that have not yet signed to do so. We are particularly disappointed that OIC member states have not yet engaged meaningfully or credibly with the human rights situation affecting Muslims in Xinjiang, while they have spoken out on other situations. This risks fueling perceptions of double standards and politicization; supporting the constructive joint statement would be a useful step towards addressing such perceptions.

We also welcome China’s acceptance of a UPR recommendation to respond positively to a country visit request by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

We would suggest that China could benefit from technical assistance by drawing on the expertise of other UN Special Rapporteurs, such as the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of human rights while countering terrorism. Given that China has advanced the need to counter terrorism as its rationale for mass programs directed at Uyghurs and others in Xinjiang, the Special Rapporteur could offer useful guidance on whether there are more rights-respecting ways to counter terrorism than mass surveillance, detaining over a million Muslims, and stripping an entire population of its rights to freedom of religion, privacy, culture and expression.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/11/hot-news-ilham-tohti-chinas-mandela-wins-2016-martin-ennals-awad/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/11/more-than-20-ambassadors-condemn-chinas-treatment-of-uighurs-in-xinjiang

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/07/11/independent-reporting-xinjiang-abuses-requires-unfettered-access-not-stage-managed

Even China makes sometimes a small gesture towards HRDs – family visit Gao Zhisheng

January 22, 2013

On 12 January 2013 the family of imprisoned human rights defender Gao Zhisheng were permitted a visit to see him ten months after an initial visit on 24 March 2012. A report of this second visit reached Front Line only on 18 January 2013. Gao Zhisheng’s wife, Ms Geng He who is US-based, told Radio Free Asia that her father and brother-in-law saw Gao Zhisheng for 30 minutes on 12 January but were forbidden from asking any “sensitive” questions, including what conditions in prison were like.  Gao Zhisheng is being held in China’s remote northwestern Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Previous attempts by his family for a second visit had been denied by the authorities. According to Geng He, Gao Zhisheng appeared to be ‘relatively well’ and did not need assistance walking. Gao Zhisheng is a human rights defender and self-taught lawyer, and was named one of China’s top ten lawyers by the Ministry of Justice in 2001. He regularly took on cases involving persecution of religious minorities, including Falun Gong practitioners and those associated with the unofficial ‘house church’ movement.

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

While Front Line Defenders welcomes this recent visit by the family of Gao Zhisheng, it reiterates its continued call on the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Gao Zhisheng as it believes he is being detained solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful human rights activities.

For more information on Gao Zhisheng’s case, see http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/17876