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GENEVA – The UN Human Rights Office has belatedly issued an assessment of human rights concerns in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The assessment was initiated following serious allegations of human rights violations against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim communities brought to the attention of the UN Human Rights Office and UN human rights mechanisms since late 2017, particularly in the context of the Chinese Government’s policies and measures to combat terrorism and “extremism.”

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Many of the human rights violations in Xinjiang are linked to the country’s cotton and textile industries. Given these are extensively documented via numerous primary and secondary sources, questions are now reasonably being asked as to why the UN took so long to speak out on this issue; fear of upsetting China is the obvious answer.

The UN said its assessment is based on a rigorous review of documentary material currently available to the Office, with its credibility assessed in accordance with standard human rights methodology. “Particular attention was given to the Government’s own laws, policies, data and statements. The Office also requested information and engaged in dialogue and technical exchanges with China throughout the process,” the UN said in a press statement.

China had previously urged the UN not to release the report – with Beijing calling it a “farce” arranged by Western powers.

UN investigators said they found credible evidence of torture possibly amounting to “crimes against humanity.”

It is alleged that more than one million Uyghurs have been detained against their will in a large network of what the state calls “re-education camps” in Xinjiang. Cotton from the region has been banned for import into the US, however, Xinjiang cotton continues to find its way into fashion supply chains via Mainland China.

The UN’s report concluded that “the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups … may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity”.

It also found, “allegations of patterns of torture or ill-treatment, including forced medical treatment and adverse conditions of detention, are credible, as are allegations of individual incidents of sexual and gender-based violence.”

The report is said to have uncovered, “credible indications of violations of reproductive rights through the coercive enforcement of family planning policies since 2017.”

It adds: “Similarly, there are indications that labour and employment schemes for purported purposes of poverty alleviation and prevention of ‘extremism’… may involve elements of coercion and discrimination on religious and ethnic grounds”

The report recommends China immediately takes steps to release “all individuals arbitrarily deprived of their liberty.”

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