Human rights groups have been sounding the alarm over what is happening in the resource-rich north-western Chinese province for years, alleging that more than one million Uyghurs had been detained against their will in a large network of what Beijing calls “re-education camps”.
The draft resolution on “holding a debate on the situation of human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China” was rejected in the 47-member Council after 17 members voted in favour, 19 members voted against, including China, and 11 abstentions, including India, Brazil, Mexico and Ukraine.
The draft resolution was presented by a core group consisting of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, UK and USA, and co-sponsored by a range of states, including Turkey.
China director at Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson, said in a statement that for the first time in its history, the UN’s top human rights body considered a proposal to debate the human rights situation in the Xinjiang region of China.
“While the Council’s failure to adopt the proposal is an abdication of responsibility and a betrayal of Uyghur victims, the extremely close vote highlights the growing number of states willing to take a stand on principle and shine a spotlight on China’s sweeping rights violations,” Richardson said.
Richardson noted that “nothing will erase the stain of China’s crimes against humanity, laid bare” by a recent report of former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
“We urge incoming High Commissioner Volker Turk to brief the Council on his office’s report, and we call on states, companies, and the international community to implement the report’s recommendations and hold Chinese authorities accountable for their international crimes,” Richardson added.
Serious allegations of human rights violations against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim communities in China were brought to the attention of the UN Human Rights Office and UN human rights mechanisms since late 2017.