By AFP - Agence France Presse
August 3, 2022
Human Rights Watch said Wednesday it wants the UN Human Rights Council to launch an investigation into alleged abuses in China's Xinjiang region, as a report by the UN rights chief looms.
The council "should establish an independent expert body to investigate those abuses", Lucy McKernan, HRW's acting director in Geneva, told reporters.
"And given the scale and severity of those abuses, that investigation should happen as soon as possible." The US government and lawmakers in a number of other Western countries have labelled China's treatment of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang "genocide" -- a charge Beijing vehemently denies. Rights groups say at least one million people, mostly members of Muslim minorities, have been incarcerated in "re-education camps" in the region, and face widespread abuses, including forced sterilisation and forced labour. China says it is running vocational training centres in the region designed to counter extremism. Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, is due to publish a long-awaited report on the issue before she steps down at the end of August.
Several NGOs wanted the former Chilean president to publish her report months ago, but Bachelet preferred to wait until after visiting Xinjiang herself.
After years of negotiating the terms of her visit to Xinjiang, she finally went to the far-western region in May.
However, her visit was criticised by the United States and major NGOs for her lack of firmness towards 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," said McKernan.
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 characterised as crimes against humanity."
The NGO hopes the report will 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," said McKernan.
In late July, Bachelet denied having come under pressure from Beijing not to publish her report.
She insisted it would be released before her mandate expires at the end of August. The next Human Rights Council session begins on September 13. apo/rjm/pvh
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