The United Nations human rights office allowed the Chinese Communist Party to peruse a draft of its report on the Party’s genocide of non-Han ethnic groups in East Turkistan and “watered down” the evidence most clearly fitting the definition of that atrocity, Politico reported on Thursday.
The Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR), the top human rights office in the U.N., published a long-awaited report on the situation in East Turkistan minutes on Wednesday night, minutes before midnight when Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s term would formally end.
The report concluded that the crimes Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz people, and others in East Turkistan have been accusing the majority-Han Communist Party of commmitting against them – from imprisonment in concentration camps to mass sterilization, rape, torture, indoctrination, and razing of historic and religious sites – did occur.
The report claims, however, that the overwhelming evidence is only enough to conclude that China “may” have committed “crimes against humanity” and does not use the word “genocide” anywhere in the text, despite confirming that Chinese officials committed actions that fit the legal definition of “genocide.” The report also did not use the term “slavery” despite confirming extensive evidence of the regime forcing Uyghurs to work in factories, cotton fields, and concentration camps with no evidence of paying them.
The U.N. notably abstained from referring to the network of an estimated 1,200 concentration camps in East Turkistan as “concentration camps,” instead using the Chinese government’s euphemism for the sites, “Vocational Education and Training Centers” (VETCs).
Human rights activists and affected groups have been urging the United Nations to publish its report on the Uyghur genocide for months following Bachelet’s visit to East Turkistan in May. At the time, Bachelet outragously celebrated the Communist Party for its “tremendous achievements” in human rights and did not in any way condemn Beijing’s atrocities against Uyghurs.
Politico, citing anonymous sources, claimed on Thursday that publishing any report at all had been a source of marked controversy at the OHCHR and that Bachelet herself had claimed the report would not be published until after she had vacated the post. Claiming to have learned the information from “one diplomat,” without elaborating, Politico reported that Bachelet gave the Communist Party access to the report on its own genocidal atrocities.
“Over the past week, Bachelet gave the report to China for a preview, and even on Wednesday the team was still busy rewriting part of it to accommodate some of Beijing’s version,” Politico claimed. “According to one diplomat, the section on forced sterilization was watered down during the final hours. The topic is particularly sensitive as this could have given rise to claims of genocide, which Beijing has battled to dismiss.”
China has for years – according to eyewitness testimonies from both victims and doctors and extensive documentation – forcibly sterilized hundreds of thousands of women of non-Han ethnicity in East Turkistan. Locals have denounced the Party for sending doctors to sterilize entire Uyghurs villages of women.
The Uyghur Tribunal, an independent organization reviewing the evidence of genocide in East Turkistan, concluded in December that China was “beyond a reasonable doubt” guilty of genocide and cited the mass sterilization campaigns as the deciding factor in the absence of evidence of mass killings.
Instead of classifying the forced sterilization of women of certain ethnic groups as an attempt to exterminate those groups and, thus, consistent with genocide, the OHCHR report described the sterilizations as “violations of reproductive rights,” akin to laws in other countries limiting abortions.
Despite allegedly having had access to the text and granted the ability to request modifications, the Chinese Communist Party attacked the United Nations on Thursday for addressing the situation in East Turkistan at all, referring to the report as a “pure stunt orchestrated by the U.S. and a few other Western countries.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters during the ministry’s daily press briefing on Thursday that the report was “completely illegal, null and void,” without offering any explanation for how the OHCHR publishing a human rights report with no binding force violated any laws.
Wang appeared to nonetheless commend the report for failing to accuse China of genocide despite confirming clearly genocidal behavior:
The fact that this assessment, despite its illegality and zero credibility, did not go so far as to play up false allegations such as “genocide”, “forced labor”, “religious oppression” and “forced sterilization” shows that the lies of the century concocted by the US and some Western forces have already collapsed.
Hua Chunying, a top Chinese government mouthpiece, urged the OHCHR to stop researching human rights violations ongoing today and instead “focus on the US’s genocide of Native Americans,” presumably referring to alleged human rights violations committed during the 1800s.
Uyghur activists and human rights groups expressed dismay at the report, even as the Chinese government attempted to display outrage.
“The report is weak and doesn’t do justice to the people of East Turkistan,” Salih Hudayar, the prime minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile, said in a statement on Thursday. “The long-awaited UN Human Rights Report dismally doesn’t mention that what China is doing is genocide.”
The president of the East Turkistan Government in Exile, Ghulam Yaghma, similarly condemned the report, stating that “the UN leadership may have been negotiating with China on what terminologies and recommendations are to be included in the report” – the same allegation made by the Politico report.
“It’s not strong in every regard, but it is a very good start. I don’t think it’s the best possible outcome,” Adrian Zenz, a scholar whose work on human rights atrocities in East Turkistan was heavily cited in the U.N. report, told Radio Free Asia (RFA). “But given the circumstances, it’s better than what could have been … This report is going to be a very good resource … to cite, for governments. It’s going to put China under significant pressure in my opinion, but it’s one step at a time.”