According to a UN assessment, reports of torture and forced labor in China's Xinjiang are credible, and there may have been crimes against humanity committed there, which Beijing denounced on Thursday (Sept. 1) as a "political tool" intended to restrict the country.
The report puts the UN seal on many of the claims long made by activist groups, Western countries, and the Uyghur population in exile. It outlined a series of rights violations against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the far-western region.
The report refrained from labeling China's actions in Xinjiang as genocide, despite assertions made by the U.S. and other Western parliamentarians.
"The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups ... may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity," the report said. It declared that the human rights situation in Xinjiang now requires "urgent attention" from the entire globe.
Beijing strongly retaliated against the report, which had been in the works for more than a year, and continued to oppose its publication. Beijing also shared a paper from the provincial government of Xinjiang that defended its regional policies. More than 100 pages made up the document.
"The so-called critical report you mentioned is planned and manufactured firsthand by the U.S. and some Western forces, it is wholly illegal and invalid," foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a regular briefing on Thursday. "The report is a hodgepodge of misinformation, and it is a political tool which serves as part of the West's strategy of using Xinjiang to control China," he added.
Wang also criticized the UN rights office, saying it had "sunk to becoming the thug and accomplice of the U.S. and the West," but claimed their "lies... have fallen apart" because the report failed to label China's actions as genocide.
The European Commission expressed its severe condemnation of China's abuses of human rights in response to the report on Thursday. "We are currently assessing the content of the report and we will be issuing reaction in good time," a European Commission spokesperson said.
"But, as we have said before, the EU strongly condemns human rights violations in Xinjiang and other parts of China - in particular the persecution of the Uyghurs and other persons belonging to national or religious and ethnic minorities."
The European Commission spokesperson continued: "The EU continues to call upon China to comply with its human rights obligations under national and international law."