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UN accuses China of Uyghur rights abuses

  • Published
    2nd Sep, 2022

The U.N. accused China of serious human rights violations that may amount to "crimes against humanity" in a long-delayed report examining a crackdown on Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups. Beijing on Thursday denounced the assessment as a fabrication cooked up by Western nations.


Conclusions of the report:

  • The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups and may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.
  • It also found:
    • "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"
    • "Credible indications of violations of reproductive rights through the coercive enforcement of family planning policies since 2017"
    • "Similarly, there are indications that labour and employment schemes for purported purposes of poverty alleviation and prevention of 'extremism'... may involve elements of coercion and discrimination on religious and ethnic grounds"

Uyghur Community:

  • The Uyghurs are Turkic-speaking Muslims from the Central Asian region.
  • The largest population lives in China’s autonomous Xinjiang region, in the country’s north-west.
  • The Uyghurs are one of a number of persecuted Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, including the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kyrgyz and Hui.
  • Many Uyghur communities also live in countries neighbouring China, such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, Australia.

Xinjiang and its importance to China:

  • Xinjiang lies in the north-west of China and is the country's largest region.
    • Like Tibet, it is autonomous, meaning - in theory - it has some powers of self-governance.
    • But in practice, both regions are subjected to major restrictions by the central government.
  • Xinjiang is a mostly desert region and produces about a fifth of the world's cotton. 
  • The region contains a wealth of natural resources, including oil, gas and rare earth minerals, but perhaps it’s most important value is as a strategic buffer that extends China’s influence westward.
  • While China and Russia have largely aligned their foreign policies in recent years, Xinjiang was on the front line of their Cold War rivalry and remains important as an assertion of Chinese influence in Moscow’s back yard.

China’s response:

  • China has always denied targeting Uyghurs and others for their religion and culture, denouncing the accusations as a confection of lies by the West and saying its crackdown was aimed at quashing separatism, terrorism and religious extremism.
  • It has said camp attendance was voluntary and no human rights were abused, although internal Chinese documents have frequently contradicted such claims. 
  • China calls it as a patchwork of false information that serves as political tool for the U.S. and other Western countries to strategically use Xinjiang to contain China.
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