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China campaigning to bury long-anticipated UN rights report on Xinjiang

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(, Jul21’22) – Having successfully got the UN rights chief to postpone its release before the Beijing Winter Olympic Games of Feb 2022, China is now campaigning to get the UN to altogether bury a highly-anticipated report on human rights violations in Xinjiang.

China began circulating a letter among diplomatic missions in Geneva from late June and asked countries to sign it to show their support. The expressed “grave concern” about the Xinjiang report and aims to halt its release, Reuters Jul 19 cited four sources – three diplomats and a rights expert – as saying, all speaking on condition of anonymity.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who is not seeking a second term, has pledged to publish the report before she leaves office at the end of August.

Rights groups accuse Beijing of abuses against Xinjiang’s Uyghur inhabitants, including the mass use of forced labour in internment camps.

“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 was stated to read, referring to the UN rights office headed by Bachelet. 

“We strongly urge Madame High Commissioner not to publish such an assessment,” the letter was stated to read.

While declining to comment on the matter, including whether Bachelet had received the letter, an OHCHR spokesperson has said the report was being finalised prior to public release, including with the standard practice of sharing a copy with China for its comments.

The report is set to address China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority. A team of rights experts began gathering evidence for it more than three years ago but its release has been delayed for many months for no clear reasons.

Two of the Geneva diplomats have said China’s letter represented a rare example of evidence of Beijing seeking to lobby Bachelet directly. Countries often find it hard to say no to China on human rights issues, given close economic ties, the report noted.

China aims to get as many countries as possible to sign the letter as a way to bring pressure the UN rights chief.

The report quoted Liu Yuyin, a spokesperson for China’s diplomatic mission in Geneva, as saying that nearly 100 countries had recently expressed their support to China on Xinjiang-related issues, expressing “their objection to interference in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of human rights”.


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