UN Report a “Damning Assessment”, More Action Needed to Address Atrocities in Xinjiang

September 1, 2022

(Washington)—Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative James P. McGovern (D-MA), the Chair and Cochair, respectively of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), issued the following statement on the release of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report on human rights conditions in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

“The report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) presents a damning assessment of Chinese authorities’ brutal treatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the region and underscores the urgent need to hold officials accountable for their actions. Despite Chinese authorities’ refusal to provide UN human rights monitors the unfettered access that would have been required to reach even more accurate and comprehensive conclusions, the report provides a deeply incriminating review of the grave abuses committed in the region, including torture, sexual violence, coercive population control policies, forced labor, and family separation. The conclusion that authorities’ mass arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and others may have committed crimes against humanity corroborates what human rights advocates and members of the Uyghur diaspora have documented for years. In doing so, the report sends a powerful message that the international community, including the UN, must act now to ensure accountability for the atrocity crimes perpetrated by Chinese officials in the XUAR. With the UN Human Rights Council preparing to meet later this month, it is more important than ever that world leaders identify and hold to account the officials responsible for human rights violations in the XUAR and ensure justice for the victims of these abuses. As the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded, ‘the conditions remain in place for serious violations to continue and recur.’

We continue to urge the UN Human Rights Council and Member States to pursue the implementation of the 2020 recommendations made by over 50 UN human rights experts to ‘act with a sense of urgency to take all appropriate measures to monitor Chinese human rights practices.’ We seek the creation of an independent mechanism to analyze and report on human rights in China, including either a Special Rapporteur or a Secretary General Special Envoy to analyze and report on human rights in China. Furthermore, we urge the United States and other allies and partners to request an open debate or, at the very least, an ‘Arria formula’ briefing on conditions in the XUAR at the UN Security Council in the coming months. We call on all countries to heed the call by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to refrain from returning Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities to China and to instead provide humanitarian assistance to these persecuted individuals. And we urge other governments to implement policies and legislation similar to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in order to protect consumers and prevent businesses from being complicit in activities that abet atrocities. There is no time to waste.”