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UN rights chief adds his voice to committee calls to address severe violations in Tibet etc

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(TibetanReview.net, Mar08’23) – The United Nations human rights chief, Mr Volker Türk, has on Mar 7 voiced “grave concerns” over conditions in Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and urged Beijing to take “concrete steps” to address the recommendations for the regions the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) had made the day before.

Delivering his Global Update speech in Geneva, Türk has said his Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had “opened up channels of communication with a range of actors” in China on issues including “the protection of minorities” in Tibet and Xinjiang.

Türk’s remarks came in his first set-piece speech to the council in Geneva since taking office as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Oct 2022.

“In the Xinjiang region, my office has documented grave concerns – notably large-scale arbitrary detentions and ongoing family separations – and has made important recommendations that require concrete follow-up,” thestandard.com.hk Mar 8 quoted Türk as saying.

He has also voiced unease over the far-reaching national security law in Hong Kong imposed in 2020 to stamp out dissent following huge and sometimes violent pro-democracy demonstrations.

Besides, “we also have concerns about the severe restriction of civic space more generally, including the arbitrary detention of human rights defenders and lawyers, and the impact of the National Security Law in Hong Kong,” he has said.

* * *

Türk’s remarks came a day after CESCR, an independent body of experts assembled by the UN, raised fresh concern about human rights in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

After extensive talks with Chinese diplomats and officials, the CESCR published a review on Mar 6 that flagged “reports of the discriminatory character of severe, systematic, vast and undue restrictions on a wide range of economic, social and cultural human rights” in the PRC, reported the scmp.com Mar 8.

The report said the committee had raised concerns over the suppression of the linguistic and cultural rights of minorities in the PRC, including “the targeting of predominantly Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Hui, Turkic-speaking peoples”.

In particular, the experts have cited “reports of the large-scale campaign to eradicate Tibetan culture and language, as well as the general undermining of the linguistic identity of ethnic minorities by the assimilation policy of the state party, known as Sinicization”.

Delivering its “Concluding Observations” on its third periodic review of China, the committee has called for an end to forced relocations and the state-run boarding school system in Tibet.

The committee of independent experts has also expressed concern that Tibetans, among others living under China’s repressive rule, “face severe restrictions in the realization of their right to take part in cultural life, including the right to use and teach minority languages, history and culture,” noted Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet on its savetibet.org website Mar 6.

Also noting its concerns about the increasingly tighter regulation of religious practices and the systematic and massive destruction of religious sites including monasteries in Tibet, the Committee has recommended that China “take adequate measures to protect cultural diversity and the cultural practices and heritage” of Tibetans “including by protecting and restoring religious sites,” pointed out the Central Tibetan Administration on its Tibet.net website Mar 8.

* * *

At least one human rights group has criticized Türk for not being forthright enough on China. His remarks fell short of activists’ hopes for a stronger message to Beijing. The aljazeera.com Mar 7 cited former head of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, as saying Türk had “mouthed not a word of criticism of China”.

“He offers only quiet diplomacy – ‘we have opened up channels of communication’ – as if he has any leverage besides the public reporting/condemnation that he abandons,” Roth has tweeted.

Türk has been under pressure from Western nations and rights organizations to take a firm stand on Xinjiang following a bombshell report published in Aug 2022 by his predecessor, Michelle Bachelet, which cited possible crimes against humanity.

And Agnes Callamard, the secretary-general of Amnesty International, had said last month that Türk should “publicly put his weight” behind Bachelet’s report and include in the council session “a significant brief on Xinjiang that reflects the gravity of the findings” of the UN rights office.

* * *

China, though given all opportunities to clarify and explain its position on the numerous issues raised by the committee, has condemned the latter’s final report with political rhetoric rather than addressing its observations on merit.

“The so-called findings that have been published by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on China are unprofessional and narrow-minded, especially the contents related to China’s Xinjiang, Xizang and Hong Kong regions, highlighting a poisonous trend of using Western standards on political rights to judge developing countries’ economic and social development,” China’s official globaltimes.cn Mar 7 cited so-called Chinese analysts as saying. China calls Tibet “Xizang” to emphasize its Chinese ownership.

And China considers any discussion, questioning, or criticism of its human rights record, especially in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong, as political interference in its internal affairs.


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