Human Rights Watch on Wednesday said that it wants the UN Human Rights Council to launch an investigation into alleged abuses in China’s Xinjiang region, as a report by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet looms.
The council “should establish an independent expert body to investigate those abuses,” said Lucy McKernan, Human Rights Watch’s acting director in Geneva, Switzerland. “And given the scale and severity of those abuses, that investigation should happen as soon as possible.”
The US government and lawmakers in other Western countries have labeled China’s treatment of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang “genocide” — a charge that Beijing denies.
Rights groups say that at least 1 million people, mostly members of Muslim minorities, have been incarcerated in “re-education camps” in the region, and face widespread abuses, including forced sterilization and forced labor.
China says it is running vocational training centers in the region designed to counter “extremism.”
Bachelet is due to publish a report on the issue before she steps down at the end of this month.
Several non-governmental organizations (NGO) wanted the former Chilean president to publish her report months ago, but Bachelet waited until after visiting Xinjiang herself.
After years of negotiating the terms of her visit to Xinjiang, she went to the region in May.
However, her visit was criticized by the US and major NGOs for her lack of firmness toward Beijing and for going more as a diplomat than a champion of human rights.
“We’ve been pretty disappointed with the high commissioner, particularly in relation to her response on China,” McKernan said.
To leave with her “head held high ... the report obviously needs to be strong. It needs to name the violations that are occurring ... [which] we have characterized as crimes against humanity,” McKernan said.
Human Rights Watch hopes that the report would call for the Human Rights Council to establish an independent investigation.
“That’s the minimum that needs to happen for this report to be credible,” McKernan said.
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