The United Nations Human Rights Council should adopt a resolution establishing an international fact-finding mission to Xinjiang, the region of China where up to one million Turkic Muslims are being arbitrarily detained, a group of nongovernmental organizations said in a joint statement to UN member states.
During the next session of the Human Rights Council, from February 25 to March 22, 2019, the Council will consider the outcome report of China’s November 2018 Universal Periodic Review, at which Chinese officials denied allegations of grave human rights violations in Xinjiang.
“The magnitude of abuses allegedly occurring in Xinjiang demand uncompromising scrutiny from the Human Rights Council,” said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director at Human Rights Watch. “The Human Rights Council’s integrity demands that states not allow China to hide behind its membership or economic might to escape accountability.”
The Chinese authorities have detained Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims – outside any legal process – in “political education” camps for their perceived disloyalty to the government and Chinese Communist Party. In those camps, they are subjected to forced political indoctrination, renunciation of their faith, mistreatment, and, in some cases, torture. Numerous UN experts, treaty bodies, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights have expressed grave concern about the situation in Xinjiang and called for unrestricted access to the region.
China has not responded positively to these requests. In December and January, the government arranged visits for some journalists and diplomats to what they claim to be mere “vocational training centers.” Following those visits, Chinese state media asserted that visitors found the conditions there “impress[ive]” and detainees “in good spirits.”
“China has had multiple opportunities over the past year to answer serious questions about the horrendous situation in Xinjiang, and at every turn provided narratives that strain credibility,” said Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International. “China should recognize that only an international fact-finding mission can separate facts from fiction and set the record straight.”
The proposed resolution would urge the High Commissioner for Human Rights to dispatch a fact-finding mission to assess the situation and report to the Human Rights Council at its next session. The resolution should also welcome China’s expression of willingness to allow access by international experts, and stresses that such access must be independent, unrestricted, and unsupervised. China should also be reminded of its obligations as a member of the HRC to “uphold the highest standards of human rights” and to “fully cooperate with the HRC.”
The statement was issued by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Service for Human Rights, and the World Uyghur Congress, and is being endorsed by a broad range of organizations regionally and globally.
“The deterioration in human rights in the country is a long-standing concern, but this is a tipping point. No country in the world should be able to get away with arbitrarily detaining a million of its own people,” said Philip Lynch, Director of International Service for Human Rights. “A resolution mandating a fact-finding mission is the bare minimum members of the Human Rights Council should do if they take their obligation to promote human rights seriously.”
“For too long Uyghurs and other Muslims have suffered gross repression at the hands of Chinese authorities,” said Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress. “We are now looking to the HRC to act – and get to the truth.”