UN reports 'serious human rights violations' against Uyghurs in China

The UN Human Rights Office has reported what it calls "serious human rights violations" in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and is calling on Beijing to promptly release detained Uyghurs.

The Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released the report on the situation in the region on Wednesday.

It said serious human rights violations have been committed against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the context of the Chinese government's application of counter-terrorism and counter-extremism strategies.

The report says these violations flow from the vagueness in related domestic laws, which "leave wide discretion to officials to interpret and apply" them.

It notes that allegations of torture or other forms of cruel treatment and punishment in what Beijing calls vocational training centers appear to be credible.

The report says "the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups" may constitute crimes against humanity.

The office recommends that the Chinese government take "prompt steps to release all individuals arbitrarily deprived of their liberty."

It also calls on Beijing to clarify the whereabouts of detained individuals to families seeking information on them, and repeal all discriminatory laws.

China had opposed the release of the report.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters on Wednesday that "the report is a pure stunt orchestrated by the US and a handful of other Western countries." He called on the high commissioner to "make the right decision."

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet visited the autonomous region in May at the invitation of the Chinese government.

It was the first time since 2005 that a UN human rights chief had visited the region.

Bachelet was in Xinjiang for two days during her six-day stay in China, and inspected a prison and a facility that China says was used for vocational training.

She said in a news conference that her visit was not an investigation, and suggested it was difficult to grasp the full humanitarian situation of the Uyghur people.

Media representatives were not allowed to accompany Bachelet on the grounds of anti-coronavirus measures.

The World Uyghur Congress, a group of Uyghurs living overseas, raised doubts about the visit's transparency.