On the sidelines of the UN, pressure to punish China’s abuses

On the sidelines of the UN, pressure to punish China’s abuses

NEW YORK (AP) – The United Nations will be judged on how it deals with China’s persecution of ethnic minorities, diplomats and human rights advocates charged Monday on the sidelines of the body’s General Assembly, calling for violent action after after a report raised the lie “crimes against humanity.”

For years, rights watchers and journalists have exposed the brutal treatment of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in the far western region of Xinjiang, where China has been accused of a ruthless campaign of torture, sexual assault and ethnic cleansing. Those allegations were widely accepted in the West, but they were given new imprimatur by the landmark report released by the UN human rights office last month.

“Inaction is no longer possible,” said Fernand de Varennes, the United Nations special rapporteur on minority rights at a forum sponsored by the Atlantic Council and Human Rights Watch as world leaders converged on New York. “If we allow this to go unpunished, what kind of message is being propagated?”

Jeffrey Prescott, the US deputy ambassador to the United Nations, suggested that the integrity of the institution was at stake in his response to China.

“Ultimately the credibility of that system and the credibility of our own international system is how these horrors are addressed,” he said. “It is very disappointing to see a country which was so central to the creation of the modern UN system, and which takes advantage of its status as a permanent member of the Security Council, which greatly exceeds its commitments.”

The UN report on China’s alleged abuses was released in the final minutes of the final day in the office of Michele Bachelet, now the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. His release was believed to be long overdue. Bachelet never explained the time.

China reacted to its release with anger, calling it a “flag of false information” and portraying it as a fabrication cooked up by Western nations. are now lobbying others to block the possibility of further scrutiny of their Xinjiang campaign.

Rob Roe, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, said China’s reaction was not surprising and said new action was warranted.

“We have to deal with this issue. We have to deal with the question of what additional sanctions will be required. We have to deal with the question of what additional steps could be taken to respond to the scale of this crisis,” he said.

The UN report was drawn, in part, from interviews with more than two dozen former detainees and others familiar with conditions at eight detention centers who described being beaten, prevented from praying and were forced to perform sexual acts on guards. He said the evidence could be “crimes against humanity” but did not mention any genocide, which the United States and other countries have accused China of committing.

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, Bachelet’s immediate predecessor as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said his successor deserved credit for publishing the report, but said it was a “deficiency” without reference to make for the abuses such as genocide. Likewise, he criticized him for not calling for the establishment of a formal United Nations commission of inquiry.

“To be an accomplice is to be silent,” he said.

Rayhan Asat, a Uyghur lawyer who works for the Atlantic Council and whose brother is imprisoned in Xinjiang, urged the world to demand action, not just against China, but companies that profit from it -uses.

“We shouldn’t let the Chinese government off the hook by normalizing something the state did,” she said, “because at the end of the day, this is state violence.”

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AP National Writer Matt Sedensky can be reached at msedensky@ap.org and https://twitter.com/sedensky. For more AP coverage of the UN General Assembly, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly.

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