Michelle Bachelet is the first UN human rights official to visit China since 2005. In the midst of this strictly supervised visit, a series of edifying photos of detainees in Chinese “re-education camps”, proof of the repression of Uyghurs, were revealed by several media.
On Tuesday, a consortium of 14 foreign media outlets published documents they say came from hacked Xinjiang police computers, files received by researcher Adrian Zenz, and published by a group of international media. Beijing is accused of conducting fierce repression against Uyghur Muslims.
These documents give a precise idea of the repressive nature of the “re-education” of Uyghurs in the “vocational training centres”. Among these are thousands of photographs, which are presented as having been taken in “detention camps” and show the faces of many “detainees”, including women, minors and the elderly.
Some of his photos show the violence committed against the detainees. They sometimes appear handcuffed, hooded, interrogated, and even tortured.
The written documents support the idea of a crackdown ordered from the top of the Chinese state.
A speech attributed to Police Minister Zhao Kezhi in 2018 explains that President Xi Jinping ordered the expansion of detention centres. According to Zhao, at least two million people in southern Xinjiang are said to be “seriously influenced by the infiltration of extremist thought.”
In a 2017 speech, Chen Quanguo, the region’s then-boss, ordered guards to shoot dead those who try to escape and to “keep a close eye on believers.”
Beijing denounces “the lie of the century”
Beijing has always denied the repression of Uyghurs, denouncing “the lie of the century” and claiming that these sites are in fact “vocational training centres” intended to de-radicalize people tempted by Islamism or separatism.
The statements of Adrian Zenz, the first to accuse the Chinese regime in 2018 of having interned more than a million Uyghurs in political re-education centres, have been refuted by China
This is just “the latest example of the denigration of Xinjiang carried out by anti-Chinese forces,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for Chinese diplomacy, vehemently criticized Tuesday.
The day after new revelations in the press concerning the repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, Xi Jinping defended his country’s record on Wednesday. The Chinese president said that “there is no ‘perfect country’ in terms of human rights” and “each country must follow “its own path in human rights, according to its conditions and the needs of its people.”
US “outraged” and deeply concerned about UN rights chief visit to China
The United States on Tuesday expressed outrage at the revelations, saying it showed the acts were probably sanctioned at the highest level in Beijing.
“We are appalled by these shocking reports and images,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said of the leaked files attributed to Chinese police.
“It seems very difficult to imagine that a systematic effort to suppress, imprison, and conduct a campaign of genocide and crimes against humanity would not have the blessing – or approval – of the highest levels of the government of the People’s Republic of China,” he said.
The US State Department spokesperson on Friday said that the upcoming visit by the UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet to the so-called Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) is deeply concerning due to Beijing’s restrictions over the visit. “We have no expectation that the [People’s Republic of China] will grant the necessary access required to conduct a complete, unmanipulated assessment of the human rights environment in Xinjiang,” spokesperson Ned Price said.
“The high commissioner, we believe, must act, and be allowed to act, independently. And the high commissioner must report objectively and factually on the human rights situation,” Price further added
“During her time in office, the current High Commissioner has failed to raise any concern about the situation in occupied Tibet, which has not been mentioned as a visit location, despite being ranked as the least free place in the world for the second year in a row,” it further remarked.
The human rights report on China that the UN had said would be released earlier this year has still not seen the light of day. “Despite frequent assurances by her office that the report would be released in short order, it remains unavailable to us, and we call on the high commissioner to release the report without delay and not to wait for the visit to do so,” US spokesperson Price also noted.