Group urges U.N. to probe Chinese government for crimes against humanity

Group urges U.N. to probe Chinese government for crimes against humanity

The Associated Press

A human rights group appealed to the United Nations in April 2021 to investigate allegations that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is committing crimes against humanity in the Xinjiang region.

Human Rights Watch cited reports of the mass detention of Muslims, a crackdown on religious practices and other measures against minorities in the northwestern region. It said they amount to crimes against humanity as defined by the treaty that established the International Criminal Court.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is not a member of the court and could use its veto power as a permanent United Nations Security Council member to block action against Chinese officials, Human Rights Watch said in a report. However, the New York-based group said the U.N. Human Rights Commission should create a body to investigate the charges, identify those responsible and provide a road map to hold them accountable.

More than 1 million people have been confined to camps in Xinjiang, according to foreign governments and researchers. Authorities there are accused of imposing forced labor and birth controls. (Pictured: Muslim students wearing masks with the colors of the pro-independence East Turkestan flag rally outside the Chinese embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, in March 2021 to protest the oppression of ethnic minority Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region.)

The CCP rejects complaints of abuses and says the camps are for job training to support economic development and combat Islamic radicalism. The government is pressing foreign clothing and shoe brands to reverse decisions to stop using cotton from Xinjiang due to reports of possible forced labor.

Then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared in January 2021 that the PRC was committing genocide in Xinjiang. His successor under U.S. President Joe Biden, Antony Blinken, has retained that designation.

The parliaments of Belgium, Canada and the Netherlands also have accused Beijing of genocide.

Human Rights Watch, which said it was assisted in the report by a Stanford University Law School human rights clinic, said it had not documented genocidal intent. However, “if such evidence were to emerge, the acts being committed against Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang … could also support a finding of genocide,” the report said.

The PRC has denied the U.N. unfettered access to the region to investigate.

“They put sanctions on us and then they say they would like to come and do an investigation to collect the evidence. I think this is typical presumption of guilt,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng said.

The United States has imposed travel and financial sanctions on Chinese officials accused of abuses in Xinjiang. Washington has blocked imports from several companies and of cotton and tomato products from the region.

The Human Rights Watch report called on the European Commission to hold off on submitting a proposed EU-China investment treaty to the European Parliament for approval until the forced labor allegations are investigated, abuses addressed, victims compensated and progress made toward holding those responsible accountable.