September 6 (AFI Report): The Office of High Commissioner of the United Nations Human Rights (OHCHR) released its long-awaited report titled “OHCHR Assessment of human rights concerns in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, People’s Republic of China” on 31 August, 2022.
The 48-page report was released on the last day of Michelle Bachelet’s term as the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights despite intense pressure from China againsts its publication. OHCRC formally began the assessment in March 2021 in response to receiving increasing allegations that members of the Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities were missing or had disappered in the Xinjing region.
The report confirmed serious human rights violations committed in the Uyghur Autonomous Region and existence of a large number of so-called Vocational Education and Training Centre (VETC), akin to prison. It mentions that various innocuous reasons such as having too many children, downloading whatsapp, wearing a veil or beard, being an ex-convict, traveling or having a foreign connections, etc. could land a person in the VETC facilities. The report also states that many of the detainees in such centres had no contact with their family and their family did not know where they were. The detainees themself neither knew the reason for their arrest, nor the length of the sentence. The report noted that detainees in the VETC had been deprived of food, sleep, daily prayer, and speaking in their own language (Uyghur or kazakh). Furthermore, it expressed grave concerns on sexual violence, including some instances of rape, affecting mainly women occuring in the VETC.
The estimated number of individuals subjected to forced labour or so-called re-education program ranges between tens of thousands to over a million. However, China has refused to provide statistics to date despite repeated request by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“I welcome the OHCHR report. The detailed report by the OHCHR is a call on the international community to take concrete steps to make China accountable for its crime. The international community must stand with Uyghurs and other minorities undergoing similar fate under China’s repressive policies,” said Kelsang Aukatsang, President of the Asia Freedom Institute.
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