China must address U.N. report on human rights violations

A U.N. body that monitors human rights issues around the world has publicly acknowledged China’s human rights abuses. The Chinese government must accept this grave fact and try to improve the situation together with the international community.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has released a report on the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The report acknowledged that serious human rights violations had been committed against the Uighur minority and others, and noted that arbitrary and discriminatory detention may constitute crimes against humanity. The report also concluded that there was credible evidence of torture and abusive treatment at mass incarceration facilities.

Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is a universal concept enshrined in the U.N. Charter. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits arbitrary deprivation of liberty. It is clear that China’s measures are in violation of these principles.

The report cited as a problem the fact that provisions in Chinese law that are the basis for detaining Uighurs are ambiguous and their interpretation is left up to the discretion of the authorities.

China’s Counterterrorism Law states that “disruption of social order” is also an example of terrorism, but this could criminalize even legitimate protests against authorities as well as religious activities. In fact, human rights lawyers in China and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have also been repressed based on such provisions.

Unless China revises the provisions and application of laws related to the maintenance of public order, structural human rights violations against Uighurs and others cannot be expected to be eliminated.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet visited Xinjiang in May, but her investigation was insufficient due to restrictions placed on her activities by China. Beijing reportedly applied pressure in an attempt to block her report. The authority of the United Nations can be said to have been narrowly preserved with the release of the report.

The United Nations should continue to urge China to accept on-site inspections and review its laws.

China has reacted strongly, saying the report is based on fabrications by the United States and European countries and that it represents neither the United Nations nor the international community. This far-fetched and apparently desperate argument reflects the magnitude of the harsh criticism from the United Nations, an organization that Beijing has always regarded as important.

If China claims that the report’s content is not true, why not just show the situation as it is? China’s argument is unconvincing.

The report also calls on business communities in all countries to fulfill their responsibility to respect human rights in their corporate activities. Now that the United Nations has acknowledged China’s human rights violations, it is unacceptable for companies to delay their responses by citing a lack of information on the ground.

Japanese firms, which have been noted for their sluggish efforts in addressing human rights issues compared to companies in the United States and Europe, should be thoroughly aware of the issues.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 3, 2022)