Illustration by Dina Mobaraki

UN Report on Human Rights Finds China Responsible for “Serious Human Rights Violations”

The UN recently released a human rights report accusing the Chinese government of “crimes against humanity” for the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Oct 2, 2022

On Aug. 31, the results of a long awaited UN analysis of the situation in Xinjiang were published in a special human rights report. According to the report, China has committed “serious human rights violations” against minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). In their statement, the UN experts conclude that the situation in XUAR “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
Initial concerns about the situation in Xinjiang were raised to the UN in 2017. Autonomous civil groups reached out to the UN with regard to an increased number of missing people of Uyghur descent and an increase in “re-educational vocational institutions'' in the region.
In the period 2017-2019, the UN conducted an investigation, which was temporarily suspended because of an issue with the research methods raised by the Chinese government.
In 2020, the UN employed independent experts to conduct research on-site with the cooperation of the Chinese government. At the beginning of their work, the Chinese government provided justification of their actions as following the counter-terrorism and extremism penal code of the country.
According to the legal code of the People’s Republic of China, “terrorism” is all “propositions and actions that create social panic, endenger public safety, attack persons or preperty, or coerce national organs or international organizations, through methods such as violence, destruction, intimidation, so as to achieve their political, ideological and other objectives” and “religious extremism” is all acts of violent religious propaganda. The diction of the counter-terrorism law is the first issue which the report flags because the experts find that “elements of the definition are broadly worded.”
Over the course of the study, the researchers recorded an unprecedented number of detained Uyghurs, a regular demolition of Muslim religious sites and expansion of “buildings with high security features” specifically in the Xinjiang region (monitored through public satellite imaging, provided by Google Maps).
Additionally, the UN experts conducted interviews with members of the Uyghur minority and report that “patterns of intimidations, threats and reprisals were consistently highlighted by the interviewees,” hinting at violations of the human right to freedom of expression and the cooperation pact between the UN and China with regard to this research.
The conclusion of the report states that “serious human rights violations have been committed in XUAR, in the context of the Government’s application of counter-terrorism and counter-extremism strategies” and recommends that the Government of China “takes prompt actions to release all individuals arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in XUAR, whether in Vocational Educational Training Camps, prisons or other detention centers” and “urgently clarifies the wheraeabouts of individuals whose families have been seeking information about their loved ones in XUAR.”
China has since responded to the allegations in an [official statement] ( which denounces the assessment as “based on disinformation and lies fabricated by the anti-China forces and out of presumption of guilt” and denies any instances of abuse against ethnic or religious minorities.
While [officials in the US] ( and other countries have gone as far as to accuse China of committing genocide (well before the publication of the new report), the UN has not made such an allegation based on the recommendations. The organization [Human Rights Watch] ( find that the report is a “solid foundation for further UN and Human Rights Council action towards accountability in China.”
Yana Peeva is Deputy Columns Editor. Email her at
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