Updated Aug 31, 2022 - Politics & Policy

UN report finds "serious human rights violations" in Xinjiang

Photo of the UN flag
Flag of the United Nations. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner released a long-awaited report Wednesday detailing the Chinese government's "serious human rights violations" in Xinjiang, which the U.S. has deemed a genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.

Driving the news: The report, which was released minutes before UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet's tenure ended, states that the Chinese government's actions "may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity."

  • The UN report determines that there is evidence of “a pattern of large-scale arbitrary detention” of the mostly Muslim Uyghurs. China has claimed the detention camps in Xinjiang are vocational training centers, despite reporting and witness accounts to the contrary.
  • They were opened as part of what the Chinese government described as a counter-terrorism initiative in Xinjiang. The U.S. and various human rights groups say some detainees have been subjected to forced sterilization, rape, forced labor and torture.
  • The UN report finds "possible forced sterilization" and “credible” allegations of rape and torture.

Between the lines: The report’s release was delayed due to strenuous objections from Beijing. It was unclear up until Wednesday whether Bachelet would release it prior to the end of her term.

What they're saying: "Serious human rights violations have been committed in [Xinjiang] in the context of the Government’s application of counter-terrorism and counter-'extremism' strategies," the report says.

  • It also calls on China to release those still “arbitrarily detained,” and provide the whereabouts of those still missing to their loved ones.
  • The report also calls on China to respond to reports that mosques, shrines and cemeteries across Xinjiang have been destroyed.
  • Human rights groups say such steps were taken systematically in an effort to erase the Uyghur identity and way of life.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that the report "deepens and reaffirms our grave concern regarding the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity that PRC government authorities are perpetrating."

  • "We will continue to work closely with our partners, civil society, and the international community to seek justice and accountability for the many victims," he added in the statement.
  • "We will continue to hold the PRC to account and call on the PRC to release those unjustly detained, account for those disappeared, and allow independent investigators full and unhindered access to Xinjiang, Tibet, and across the PRC."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Go deeper