Outrage as UN debate on China’s alleged Xinjiang abuses rejected


The UN Human Rights Council has voted not to debate the treatment of the Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang even after the UN’s human rights office concluded the scale of the alleged abuses there may amount to “crimes against humanity”.
The motion for a debate on the issue was defeated by 19 votes to 17, with 11 countries abstaining in a decision China welcomed and others condemned as “shameful”.
Many of those who voted “no” were Muslim-majority countries such as Indonesia, Somalia, Pakistan, UAE and Qatar. Among the 11 countries that abstained were India, Malaysia and Ukraine.
“This is a victory for developing countries and a victory truth and justice,” Hua Chunying, China’s foreign affairs spokesperson tweeted. “Human rights must not be used as a pretext to make up lies and interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, or to contain, coerce & humiliate others.”
The UN first revealed the existence of a network of detention centres in Xinjiang in 2018, saying at least one million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities were being held in the system. China later admitted there were camps in the region, but said they were vocational skills training centres necessary to tackle “extremism”.
Amid leaks of official government documents, investigations by human rights groups and academics, and testimony from Uighurs themselves, China has lobbied hard to prevent any further probe into the situation in Xinjiang.
Former UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, who first called for “unfettered” access to the region in 2018, was only allowed to visit in May, in what appeared to be a tightly-choreographed visit.
Her report on the situation was also pushed back and was only released on August 31, minutes before her term was due to end.
While it did not mention the word “genocide”, it found that “serious human rights violations” had been committed, and said “the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups which may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
The Uighurs are a mostly Muslim Turkic people who differ in religion, language and culture from China’s majority Han ethnic group.