NEW YORK (TNZT) — The United Nations will be judged on how it tackles China’s persecution of ethnic minorities, diplomats and human rights defenders who were charged on the sidelines of the body’s General Assembly on Monday, calling for strong action after a report the specter of “humanitarian crimes.”
For years, human rights watchdogs and journalists have denounced the brutal treatment of Uyghurs and other mainly Muslim ethnic groups in the far western region of Xinjiang, where China is accused of a relentless campaign of torture, assault and ethnic cleansing. Those allegations have been widely accepted in the West, but were given new imprimatur with the landmark report released last month by the UN human rights agency.
“Inaction is no longer possible,” Fernand de Varennes, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on minority rights, said at a forum sponsored by the Atlantic Council and Human Rights Watch as world leaders descend on New York. “If we let this go unpunished, what kind of message will it send?”
Jeffrey Prescott, a deputy US ambassador to the United Nations, suggested that the institution’s integrity was at stake in its response to China.
“How these atrocities are handled ultimately goes to the credibility of that system, to the credibility of our international system itself,” he said. “It is deeply disheartening to see a country that has been so central to the creation of the modern UN system, and enjoys its status as a permanent member of the Security Council, to violate its obligations so thoroughly.”
The UN report on the alleged abuses in China was released in the closing minutes of the last day in the office of Michele Bachelet, now the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The release was believed to have been long delayed. Bachelet never explained the timing.
China reacted furiously to the release, calling it “a patchwork of false information” and portraying it as a fabrication fabricated by Western countries. It gave a lengthy response, promising to stop collaborating with the UN human rights agency, and Chinese diplomats are now lobbying others to thwart the possibility of further investigation of its campaign in Xinjiang.
Rob Roe, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, said China’s response was not surprising and said new action was deserved.
“We have to solve this question. We must deal with the question of what further sanctions will be necessary. We need to answer the question of what further steps can be taken to respond to the magnitude of this crisis,” he said.
The UN report is drawn in part from interviews with more than two dozen former inmates and others familiar with the conditions at eight detention centers who described being beaten, prevented from praying and forced to perform sexual acts on guards. It said the evidence could be “crimes against humanity” but made no mention of genocide, which the United States and other countries accused China of.
Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, Bachelet’s immediate predecessor as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said his successor deserved credit for publishing the report, but said it was a “shortcoming” in not addressing the abuses. labeled as genocide. Likewise, he criticized it for not calling for the establishment of a formal UN Commission of Inquiry.
“To be silent is to be an accomplice,” he said.
Rayhan Asat, a Uyghur lawyer who works for the Atlantic Council and whose brother is imprisoned in Xinjiang, urged the world to urge action not only against China, but also companies profiting from the abuses. of it.
“We must not upset the Chinese government by normalizing what the state has done,” she said, “because ultimately this is state violence.”
TNZT National Writer Matt Sedensky can be reached at [email protected] and https://twitter.com/sedensky. For more TNZT coverage of the UN General Assembly, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly.