Global Condemnation of Chinese Government Abuses in Xinjiang

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Chinese security personnel patrol near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang region, November 4, 2017.
© 2017 Ng Han Guan/AP Images

A broad group of 43 countries at the United Nations has strongly condemned the Chinese government’s widespread human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang. The declaration also calls on the UN high commissioner for human rights to present an assessment of the situation in Xinjiang as soon as possible.

The unprecedented cross-regional coalition endorsing the statement is further proof that countries are ignoring Beijing’s threats of retaliation against those that publicly raise concerns about Chinese government violations. Crucially, this declaration is the first with signatories from all five regional groups at the UN. It includes Liberia, Eswatini, and Turkey, which all joined for the first time since mostly Western countries began issuing periodic joint statements several years ago.

Following negotiations led by the French delegation, French Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière delivered the joint statement at the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee. The statement cites credible allegations of “widespread and systematic human rights violations, including reports documenting torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilization, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced separation of children.”

As usual, the Chinese delegation enlisted another country to read out its own joint statement voicing support for Beijing. This time the pro-China statement was read out by Cuba and parroted Beijing’s claim that issues related to Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet are “China’s internal affairs that brook no interference.” China didn’t say who endorsed its statement but it’s typically a rogue’s gallery of mostly rights-abusing governments.

Human Rights Watch has determined that the mass detention, torture, forced labor, and other abuses committed against Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang amount to crimes against humanity. UN member countries should not only demand Beijing end those abuses but also support international efforts to hold those responsible to account.

In September, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, announced that years of discussions with China on access to Xinjiang had yet to produce an agreement, and she would move ahead without Beijing’s blessing. When she delivers her assessment of alleged rights violations in Xinjiang, UN member states should move quickly to establish a commission of inquiry at the Human Rights Council or General Assembly to determine the scope of abuses and outline possible paths to accountability.

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