CONTROVERSIAL MIDNIGHT REPORT BY OHCHR ON XINJIANG


Sultan M Hali


THE report released by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) at midnight, minutes before its head, Michelle Bachelet’s term as human rights chief ended speaks volumes for what it does not say rather than what it terms as findings of “The actions of the Chinese government in Xinjiang, including the detention and persecution of Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslim groups”, which goes on to surmise that it “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity”.

Bachelet, a former Chilean President and herself a victim of incarceration and torture suffered as a political prisoner under the repressive regime of dictator Augusto Pinochet is no stranger to human rights abuse.

All her life, she has campaigned for human rights and championed movements for protecting the dignity of human kind.

In May 2022, Bachelet visited Xinjiang which marked the first time in 17 years that a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had travelled to China.

She was afforded free access to meet the Uighurs and her team preceded her own visit to deeply investigate the allegations of torture, slave labour and forced sterilization of Uighur women.

Bachelet’s statement following the visit praised China’s “poverty alleviation and the eradication of extreme poverty, 10 years ahead of its target date” as “tremendous achievements,” noting also that China’s “introduction of universal health-care and almost universal unemployment insurance scheme go a long way in ensuring protection of the right to health and broader social and economic rights.”

Bachelet stated that in Xinjiang she “raised questions and concerns about the application of counter-terrorism and de-radicalisation measures and their broad application – particularly their impact on the rights of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities” and that “the Government assured me that the [Vocational and Educational Training Center] system has been dismantled.

” She also “encouraged the Government to undertake a review of all counter terrorism and deradicalization policies to ensure they fully comply with international human rights standards, and in particular that they are not applied in an arbitrary and discriminatory way.”

Unfortunately, she was under tremendous pressure from the West to release a report condemning Beijing for its alleged human rights violations so much so that she did not seek a second term in office.

China’s UN Mission rejected all accusations of human rights violations in Xinjiang and said the report was based on “disinformation and lies fabricated by anti-China forces” which “undermines the credibility” of the office.

The report, titled “Fight against Terrorism and Extremism in Xinjiang: Truth and Facts” also reiterated Beijing’s long-standing position that policies on Xinjiang are for “counterterrorism”.

This scribe has toured the length and breadth of Xinjiang for forty-eight years and has not found an iota of truth in the false accusations against Beijing.

Indeed, some misled Uighurs were exploited to commit acts of terrorism who were dealt with but in general, the root causes of deprivation have been removed and the Uighurs now lead a prosperous and happy life, contrary to smear campaigns run by vested interests and detractors of China’s progress.

The fake reports of sterilization and forced birth control of the Uighur population is belied by statistics.

While the family planning rules of China had forced the one-child policy for the majority Han population, the ethnic minorities were exempted thus the population of the Uighurs has steadily grown by 13.99% according to the 2021 census.

Similarly, effective measures taken for vocational training and placement of Uighurs in suitable job placements in various projects under the Belt and Road Initiative, the Chinese government’s efforts are reflected in the exponential GDP growth of Xinjiang region to 1.38 trillion yuan (213 billion U.S.dollars) in 2020.

Contrary to the accusations of religious persecution, this scribe has toured the length and breadth of Xinjiang and found no evidence of it.

There are over 25,000 well equipped mosques with modern amenities in Xinjiang alone, which are filled with devout Muslims during prayer times.

Disturbed by reports of distortion of Islamic verses and manipulating Uighur Muslims to acts of terrorism, the Chinese government established Xinjiang Islamic Institute in the capital Urumqi.

The institute confers bachelor and junior college degrees on students and provides non-degree training for serving religious personnel.

It offers courses in Mandarin, Uighur and Arabic languages. Students take courses in religious knowledge, national law, culture and history.

With a spacious worship hall, a stadium and a football court, it can accommodate 1,100 students.

Government grants for food and lodging have also increased, particularly for students from impoverished families in southern Xinjiang.

More importantly, Abdurekhip Tumniyaz, Director of the Institute, in a meeting with this scribe, assured that the graduates of the Institute take their positions as Imams or prayer leaders to dispense the accurate and correct interpretation of the Holy Quran, leaving no room for harbingers of extremism to distort Islamic teaching.

As expected, within hours of the release of the controversial report by OHCHR, Liu Yuyin, spokesperson for the Chinese Mission to Geneva, released a statement dismissing the findings as a mere attempt to tarnish China’s reputation.

She reiterated that it is completely a politicized document that disregards facts, and reveals explicitly the attempt of some Western countries and anti-China forces to use human rights as a political tool.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a daily press briefing that the report was purely plotted by the United States and some other anti-China forces in the West, calling it totally illegal and invalid.

He stressed that more than 60 countries sent a joint letter to the OHCHR to make it clear that they opposed the release of this false report, adding that nearly 100 non-governmental organizations have done the same.

Wang emphasized that nearly 100 countries, including Muslim countries, have continuously spoken up at the Human Rights Council and the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly to support China’s legitimate position on Xinjiang and oppose interference in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of Xinjiang-related issues.

As a well wisher of China and especially the people of Xinjiang, I hope that good sense will prevail and the real story of the prosperity of the Uighurs will prevail.

—The Author is a Retired Group Captain of PAF, who has written several books on China.

(Courtesy Pakistan Observer)