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US asks UN Human Rights Council to debate rights abuses in China's Xinjiang region

A UN report on Xinjiang published last month cited possible crimes against humanity against Uyghur Muslims in the region.

A security guard watches from a tower around a detention facility in Yarkent County in northwestern China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in 2021.
A security guard watches from a tower around a detention facility in Yarkent County in northwestern China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in 2021.
Image: Ng Han Guan/PA

THE UNITED STATES has called on the UN Human Rights Council to organise a debate on rights violations in China’s Xinjiang region, following a report warning of possible crimes against humanity.

Washington presented the first-ever draft resolution to the top UN rights body focused on China, asking it to “hold a debate on the situation of human rights in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region” during the council’s next session.

The draft text, seen by AFP, was co-sponsored by Britain, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway.

China is facing intense scrutiny after former UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet released her long-delayed Xinjiang report last month, citing possible crimes against humanity.

The report, which was published on 31 August just minutes before Bachelet’s term ended, highlighted “credible” allegations of widespread torture, arbitrary detention, and violations of religious and reproductive rights.

It brought UN endorsement to long-running allegations by campaigners and others, who accuse Beijing of a litany of abuses in Xinjiang, including detaining more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslims, and forcibly sterilising women.

Beijing vehemently rejected such charges and criticised the report, accusing the UN of becoming a “thug and accomplice of the US and the West”.

It insists it is running vocational training centres in the region to counter extremism.

Western countries and their allies have been under intense pressure from rights groups and others to present a council resolution condemning the alleged violations, or even ordering an investigation.

Amid frenzied diplomatic consultations in recent weeks, there appeared to be agreement that doing nothing was not an option.

But fears were also expressed that a failed resolution would signal a shifting power balance and weaken the council.

The resolution presented by the US today will be voted on by the 47-member council next week.

China has meanwhile clearly signalled that it will not take any moves against it at the council sitting down.

It has launched an all-out offensive since the current council session started two weeks ago, and last week sent a small army of delegates from Xinjiang to Geneva to hammer home the “truth” about the rights situation in the region.

Asked about how China would respond to a council resolution, Xu Guixiang, head of the Xinjiang government’s information office, told reporters that Beijing would “resolutely adopt appropriate countermeasures”.

“We are not afraid. We are ready for the fight,” he said.

© AFP 2022

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