The United Nations Human Rights Office has released a long-awaited and offensive report on the conditions of the ethnic minority Uyghurs (also referred to as Uyghurs) in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in northwest China.
The report details gross violations of the rights of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and states that such treatment by China may amount to “crimes against humanity.”
The 45-page report released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) late Wednesday concluded that serious violations have occurred in Xinjiang as part of China’s implementation of measures to combat “terrorism” and “extremism”.
China described the UN report as a “farce”.
In defense of its policies toward the Uyghurs, the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations in Geneva attached a 131-page response document (PDF).
Chinese and UN reports on Xinjiang and the treatment of Uyghurs are diametrically opposed in their views on the situation.
Below are some of the key findings of the United Nations, along with China’s opposing views on life in Xinjiang.
Vocational training or mass arrest?
Beijing has imposed strict security measures in Xinjiang in recent years in what it says are efforts to combat separatism and religious extremism.
As part of these operations, Beijing has been accused of locking up more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a network of detention facilities across Xinjiang.
According to a UN report, China’s counter-terrorism laws have led to the widespread arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other primarily Muslim communities through so-called “Vocational Education and Training Centers” (VETC) – facilities where individuals are sent to “remove extremism” and “re-education”.
The United Nations said there were credible allegations of torture, ill-treatment and poor conditions in vocational and technical training centers and other facilities, as well as forced medical treatment and incidents of sexual and gender-based violence.
“The abuses in the Vocational Training Center and Vocational Training Center and other detention facilities come against a backdrop of broader discrimination against members of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities on the basis of perceived security threats,” the United Nations said.
The UN has also called on China to release all those arbitrarily detained in its vocational and training center, prisons and other detention sites, and to account for the “locations” of people whose families are seeking answers about their locations, including providing access to communications and travel. So that they can be reunited.
China should also investigate allegations of human rights abuses at VTC facilities “including allegations of torture, sexual violence, ill-treatment and forced medical treatment, as well as forced labor and reports of deaths in custody.”
Although the Chinese government claims that the education and vocational training and training system has been significantly scaled back or retired entirely, legal frameworks and policies that have allowed the arbitrary and mass detention of the Uyghur minority remain in place, the United Nations said.
China claims that the implementation of vocational training in Xinjiang has been “in strict compliance with laws” and “strict legal supervision”.
Courses at professional centers include standard spoken and written Chinese, as well as legal and professional skills. The training focused on “de-radicalization” and “psychological correction and behavioral intervention to help the trainees change their mindset, rejoin society and rejoin their families.”
The Chinese document, issued refuting the UN report, states that “education and training centers are essentially schools in nature.”
“They are not concentration camps,” the report said, adding that the allegations of “trainees” among the “missing” or “enforced missing” were “pure fabrications.”
According to China, trainees in vocational and technical training centers enjoy personal freedoms in terms of movement and correspondence. Interns return home regularly and can apply to leave the centers to attend personal matters.
State policies in Xinjiang have also placed severe restrictions on Uyghurs’ religious identity and expression, according to the United Nations, as well as restricting the right to privacy and freedom of movement and violations of reproductive rights through discriminatory family planning and birth control policies.
The UN said elements of coercion and discrimination on religious and ethnic grounds were also evident in alleged work and employment plans to alleviate poverty and prevent “extremism”.
China claims that VETCs respect freedom of religious belief, customs and traditions, and that trainees can use spoken and written minority languages.
According to the Chinese report, “the centers fully respect the cultural needs of the trainees.”
However, the report also notes that China’s religious affairs regulations prohibit the establishment or organization of religious activities in the centers.
The report stresses that the technical and vocational training centers are not “concentration camps”, and “there were no so-called human rights violations in these centres.”
According to the report, the trainees are in fact covered by the pension and health insurance, and receive free medical examinations.
“In Xinjiang, Uyghurs and people of all ethnic groups fully enjoy the right to freedom of religious belief,” and “normal religious activities are protected in accordance with the law.”
China argues that Xinjiang’s “education and training” policies are “a concrete example of China’s efforts to implement United Nations action plans as well as international initiatives and concepts on combating terrorism and extremism.”
The training of Muslim scholars was “developed”, and investment was made in the Xinjiang Islamic School.
According to the UN report, monitoring of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang should not violate the fundamental freedoms and rights of individuals.
The UN has also called on China to clarify reports of the destruction of mosques, shrines and cemeteries – and to suspend such activities in the meantime.
The China report states that the installation of security cameras in rural and urban public spaces in Xinjiang is in accordance with established international practices, and that the measure is not designed to target any particular ethnic group.
The report compares practice in Xinjiang with the United States and the United Kingdom and describes China’s criticism of surveillance as “naked double standards.”
‘A happy life’
China has said it opposes the release of a UN report that “ignoring the human rights achievements” of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
China has taken a “people-centered approach” in its policies and embarked on a human rights development plan that matches “the trends of the times and fits China’s national situation.”
China “supports that living a happy life is a fundamental human right.”
The Chinese report stated: “In short, respect for and protection of human rights is a fundamental principle enshrined in China’s Constitution.”
Anti-Chinese forces in the United States and the West only pretend to care about human rights but use the Uyghur issue as a means to “destabilize Xinjiang and suppress China”.
“Such vile conspiracies are doomed to fail,” the report states.