Document reveals China’s attempt to stop UN rights chief from releasing Xinjiang report – National
China is asking United Nation human rights director buried a highly anticipated report on human rights violations in Xinjiangaccording to a Chinese letter seen by Reuters and confirmed by the diplomats of the three countries that received it.
United Nations High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet has faced fierce criticism from civil society for being too soft on the China during a visit in May and since then she has said she would refuse to seek a second term for personal reasons.
But before leaving at the end of August, she pledged to publish a report on the Xinjiang region, western China. Human rights groups accuse Beijing of mistreatment of the Uighur population in Xinjiang, including the mass use of forced labor in detention camps. China has strongly denied the allegations.
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Four sources said the Chinese-written letter expressed “serious concern” about the Xinjiang report and was intended to be discontinued – three diplomats and a rights expert, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity. They said China began circulating it among diplomatic missions in Geneva at the end of June and asked countries to sign it to show their support.
“The review (on Xinjiang), if published, will intensify politicization and confrontation between blocs in the field of human rights, undermine the credibility of OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights), and make harm cooperation between OHCHR and member states,” the letter said, referring to Bachelet’s office.
“We strongly urge the High Commissioner not to publish such a review.”
Liu Yuyin, a spokesman for the Chinese diplomatic mission in Geneva, did not say whether the letter had been sent or answered questions about its content.
Liu said that nearly 100 countries have expressed their support to China on issues related to Xinjiang “and oppose their interference in China’s internal affairs on the grounds of human rights”.
This support was expressed through public statements at the last session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which ended on July 8, and through the “joint letter,” Liu added, use a term denoting China and the other signatories.
A spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry told Reuters that Bachelet will see a “real Xinjiang with a safe and stable society” when she visits the region during her visit in May. to China.
The spokesman said attempts by some countries to “smear China’s image” using the Xinjiang issue would not be successful.
It is not clear if Bachelet received the letter and an OHCHR spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.
The Xinjiang report, he added, is being finalized before it is released to the public, saying this includes standard practice of sharing a copy with China for their comments.
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The report is set to cover China’s treatment of its Uighur minority. A team of rights experts began gathering evidence for it more than three years ago but its release has been delayed for months for unclear reasons.
Reuters could not determine how many signatures the letter received. One of the four sources, a diplomat based in Geneva, responded to the letter positively in support of his country.
Another version of the letter was also seen by Reuters as more critical of Bachelet’s actions, saying the Xinjiang report was made “without authorization and in serious breach of OHCHR obligations,” and would undermine her personal reputation.
It’s not clear who edited it or why. The diplomat who signed the letter said the lighter version was the final version.
China, like other countries, sometimes seeks to increase support for its political claims in the Geneva-based human rights council through diplomatic memorandums other countries have signed. request support.
These can sometimes influence the decisions of the 47-member Council, which actions are not legally binding but may allow investigation of suspected violations.
Two of the Geneva diplomats said China’s letter was a rare example of evidence that Beijing was seeking to lobby Bachelet directly. Sometimes, they say, it is difficult for countries to say no to China on human rights issues, due to their close economic ties.
The memo comes at a pivotal time for the UN rights body in the final few weeks of Bachelet’s term, for which no successor has yet been nominated. Bachelet, 70, will leave office on August 31. (Additional reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing Written by Emma Farge Edited by Mark Heinrich)