There are only a few minutes left in Bachelet’s four-year term before the report, which Western diplomats and U.N. officials claimed had been nearly complete for months, was published.
The long-awaited report by Michelle Bachelet’s office on alleged rights violations in China’s western Xinjiang region was released on Wednesday, defying Beijing’s requests to keep it under wraps and igniting a diplomatic struggle between Beijing and the West over the rights of the region’s native Uyghurs and other primarily Muslim ethnic groups.
There are only a few minutes left in Bachelet’s four-year term before the report, which Western diplomats and U.N. officials claimed had been nearly complete for months, was published. It was unlikely for the report to make important new discoveries beyond broad conclusions from unaffiliated advocacy organisations and journalists who have long chronicled worries about human rights in Xinjiang.
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However, the United Nations and the member states that make up it have approved Bachelet’s report. The period leading up to its publication sparked a discussion about China’s influence at the international organisation and exemplified the intermittent diplomatic ice between Beijing and the West over, among other thorny issues, human rights.
The publication is still something Beijing is “firmly opposed” to, according to Zhang Jun, China’s U.N. ambassador.
Although we haven’t read the report yet, Zhang told reporters outside the Security Council, “We are totally opposed to such a study, we do not think it will generate any good to anyone.” We have been extremely explicit about our opposition to such a report with the high commissioner and on previous occasions.
The report would be made public by the time of Bachelet’s retirement on August 31. Bachelet stated in June that she would not seek re-election as head of the rights department. As a result, there was an increase in back-channel activities, including letters from governments, civic society, and individuals on both sides of the issue. Her staff was “working” to release it before her departure, she said last week, giving the impression that she could miss her deadline.
After taking office in September 2018, Bachelet focused on Xinjiang, but Western diplomats privately expressed worry that throughout her tenure, she did not sufficiently criticise China when other rights monitors pointed out violations against Muslim Uyghurs and others in Xinjiang.
An estimated million Uyghurs and members of other ethnic groups have been detained by the Chinese government in Xinjiang over the course of the last five years. Beijing has referred to these facilities as “training centres,” while former prisoners have described them as cruel detention facilities.
Many of the camps have since been shut down by Beijing, but hundreds of thousands are still languishing in jail on nebulous, unproven allegations.