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China: UN Human Rights Council vote on Xinjiang ‘makes mockery’ of human rights issues

© Amnesty International

Human Rights Council rejects moves to hold debate on suspected crimes against humanity

UN’s own High Commissioner for Human Rights being ignored

‘Today’s vote protects the perpetrators of human rights violations rather than the victims’ - Agnès Callamard

Responding to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s rejection - by 19 votes to 17 with 11 abstentions - of a draft decision to hold a debate on China’s Xinjiang region, Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said: 

“Today’s vote protects the perpetrators of human rights violations rather than the victims - a dismaying result that puts the UN’s main human rights body in the farcical position of ignoring the findings of the UN’s own human rights office.

“The recent report on Xinjiang by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights was an important step forward in addressing crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations committed by the Chinese government in Xinjiang, yet today the UN has taken two steps back.

“For council member states to vote against even discussing a situation where the UN itself says crimes against humanity may have occurred makes a mockery of everything the Human Rights Council is supposed to stand for.

“Member states’ silence - or worse, blocking of debate - in the face of the atrocities committed by the Chinese government further sullies the reputation of the Human Rights Council. Political and economic interests should not trump serious human rights concerns, and no state should be shielded from scrutiny at the Human Rights Council.

“The UN Human Rights Council has today failed the test to uphold its core mission, which is to protect the victims of human rights violations everywhere, including in places such as Xinjiang.”

Crimes against humanity

Today’s vote comes despite the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights finding in August that crimes against humanity may have occurred in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Had today’s vote supported the need for a debate, this would have taken place at the Human Rights Council’s next regular session in March 2023.

Since 2017, there has been extensive documentation of China’s crackdown against Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang carried out under the guise of fighting terrorism. Last year, a comprehensive report by Amnesty showed that the systematic state-organised mass imprisonment, torture and persecution perpetrated by the Chinese authorities amounted to crimes against humanity. Amnesty’s Free Xinjiang Detainees campaign has profiled 126 individuals who are among the estimated one million or more people in arbitrary detention in internment camps and prisons in Xinjiang. 


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