China attempts to block release of UN human rights report
China has asked the United Nations Human Rights Council to not publish its highly anticipated report on human rights violations against ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang province
July 21, 2022 6:40am
Updated: July 21, 2022 12:41pm
China has asked the United Nations Human Rights Council to not publish its highly anticipated report on human rights violations against ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang province, according to a Chinese letter received by diplomats of multiple countries.
The letter, obtained by Reuters and confirmed by three diplomats and a human rights expert, expressed “grave concern” about the upcoming report, arguing that its release could threaten the solidarity of the UN’s member countries.
"The assessment (on Xinjiang), if published, will intensify politicisation and bloc confrontation in the area of human rights, undermine the credibility of the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights), and harm the cooperation between OHCHR and member states," the letter said, referring to UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet's office.
"We strongly urge Madame High Commissioner not to publish such an assessment."
Beijing has been accused of human rights atrocities against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in the far western province, including genocide, mass detention, forced labor and organ harvesting.
China has vigorously denied all allegations, claiming the camps they are being held in provide vocational training.
The sources told Reuters that China had begun circulating the letter in diplomatic circles in Geneva, where the human rights council is based, in late June.
Bachelet promised to release the report before her term ends in August after facing severe criticism for being too soft on China during a visit in May, which included a highly restricted stop in Xinjiang. She declared in June that she would not be running for re-election but dismissed speculation it was related to backlash to her China trip.
A spokesperson for China’s diplomatic mission in Geneva would not answer questions about the letter or its contents, but said that nearly 100 countries had recently expressed their support to China on Xinjiang-related issues “and their objection to interference in China's internal affairs under the pretext of human rights.”
As of earlier this month, Amnesty International has documented the stories of 120 individuals who have been “swept up in China’s vast system of prisons and internment camps in Beijing.”
“The foot-dragging which has characterized the UN response to the dystopian nightmare in Xinjiang adds insult to injury for victims and survivors of China’s campaign of mass imprisonment, torture and persecution against predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang since 2017,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, in a statement.