The Washington Post

A damning report

The U.N. finally releases its document on China’s atrocities against the Uyghurs.


THERE ARE no surprises in the long-awaited United Nations report on China’s brutal human rights violations in the region of Xinjiang. But its contents, and the circumstan­ces around its release, should bring renewed attention to China’s persecutio­n of the Uyghur people — and Beijing’s determinat­ion to cover it up.

The report, released Wednesday by U.N. Human Rights Commission­er Michelle Bachelet, concludes that China’s actions in Xinjiang “may constitute internatio­nal crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.” The details are chilling. Investigat­ors found that, under the guise of “counterter­rorism,” the Chinese government perpetuate­d “severe and undue restrictio­ns on a wide range of human rights.” Central to this campaign was the mass detention of Uyghurs in “vocational education and training centers,” a sanitized term for internment camps. Former detainees and camp workers described a litany of abuses and torture, including beatings with electric batons while strapped to “tiger chairs” and solitary confinemen­t. In addition, survivors spoke of being given unidentifi­ed injections or pills that made them drowsy, while some women reported sexual violence and rape.

Investigat­ors also documented allegation­s of enforced disappeara­nces, family separation­s and the targeting of Uyghurs abroad, and raised concerns about the apparent destructio­n of religious sites. Crucially, they found “credible indication­s of violations of reproducti­ve rights,” including first-hand accounts of forced birth control and abortions.

These findings echo what many other institutio­ns had already concluded. The United States rightly declared last year China’s repression of the Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang a genocide. Other organizati­ons have also accused Beijing of crimes against humanity. But the United Nations’ imprimatur is significan­t, particular­ly because many advocates and survivors worried the report would never see the light of day.

In December, the United Nations’ High Commission­er for Human Rights Office said the report would be released in “a matter of a few weeks.” In May, after Ms. Bachelet embarked on a highly restricted visit to China, she released a tepid statement that invoked Beijing’s own rhetoric on Xinjiang. Her anodyne comments are all the more galling in light of the damning report, which was well underway. As recently as last week, Ms. Bachelet claimed her office had faced “tremendous pressure to publish or not to publish” it. She finally released the document on her very last day in office, alongside a 131-page rebuttal from China replete with propaganda and diversions.

Despite the delay, the report offers a strong, clear accounting of China’s violence and oppression against Uyghurs — and should be a call to action. It will need to be formally presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council, so member states can begin discussing next steps. The Biden administra­tion, for its part, should vigorously enforce the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which bans products from Xinjiang unless companies can prove they were not manufactur­ed with forced labor. It should also use its authority under the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act to impose sanctions on officials complicit in the persecutio­n of Uyghurs. Meanwhile, all government­s must move to protect whistleblo­wers and dissidents from reprisal by Chinese authoritie­s.

Beijing cannot be allowed to continue committing atrocities with impunity. The U.N. report represents a small, overdue step toward accountabi­lity and justice. Now, it’s on the internatio­nal community to follow through.

 ?? MARK SCHIEFELBE­IN/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Urumqi No. 3 Detention Center in Xinjiang, China, in 2021.
MARK SCHIEFELBE­IN/ASSOCIATED PRESS Urumqi No. 3 Detention Center in Xinjiang, China, in 2021.

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