United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s much-anticipated trip to China, which also includes a visit to Xinjiang, should underscore the need for justice for the victims of violations and accountability for those responsible, said Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday. Marking the first time that a UN human rights commissioner would visit the Asian country since 2005, Michelle Bachelet is set to visit China during the last 10 days of this month.
It is pertinent to note here that the UN human rights high commissioner has previously asserted that she would need “unfettered” access to Xinjiang, the Uyghur region to conduct an “independent assessment.” However, the terms of her visit have not yet been disclosed. Meanwhile, her visit has already drawn criticism from Chinese authorities who have insisted that they will not allow anything other than a “friendly visit” for the purposes of dialogue.
“The Chinese government is committing human rights violations on a scope and scale unimaginable since the last time a high commissioner visited in 2005, partly because there is no fear of accountability,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at HRW. “The high commissioner needs to work to end, not enable, that perception.”
China’s ‘Strike Hard Against Violent Extremism’ campaign
In 2014, Chinese authorities had started the “Strike Hard Against Violent Extremism” which is reported to have escalated into large-scale systematic policies of mass detention, torture, cultural persecution and other offences against the Uyghur and other Turkic populations in Xinjiang. Several countries, including the United States and Canada, have already accused China of committing crimes against humanity.
Additionally, researchers and the UN human rights experts have termed the Chinese government’s handling of the minorities in the country and government misuse of terrorism charges to violate human rights, mass surveillance, cultural persecution and destruction of historic and religious sites. Hundreds of victims of the “Strike Hard” campaign have shared the accounts of their experiences. Chinese government documents have also been leaked in 2019 which revealed their intent to carry out the same violations on a mass scale.
Violations against Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang
Around one to two million Uyghurs and members of other minorities are reported to be held up in several camps in Xinjiang. According to The Hong Kong Post, in these camps, the detainees are asked to renounce their religion, avoid maintaining any religious identity, study Marxism and work in factories. However, China has repeatedly dismissed allegations of human rights abuses as ‘false’. Instead, Chinese authorities have labelled the ‘detention centres’ as ‘re-education’ camps.