OHCHR's report on Xinjiang emerges as highly dubious
China Daily

Local people perform dancing for tourists in the Kazanqi folk tourism village, a popular scenic spot in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A United Nations human rights body has released a sham assessment report on Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. The report, released by the Office of the High Commissioner of the Human Rights, not only violates the mandate given to the OHCHR by the UN and the UN Charter but also appears to be completely biased, highly manipulated, and far from the facts about the human rights situation in the region and is in total negation of the official views comprehensively expressed to the world media by no one else but the high commissioner for human rights herself a couple of months ago, based on her personal and official assessment after her official visit to Xinjiang, reveal the investigations carried out by The Daily Mail of Pakistan.

Pakistan's Daily Mail's investigations show that the OHCHR report on Xinjiang, released near the end of High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet's tenure, received a lot of attention and credence by Western groups at the rights body and the UN whereas two similar reports on human rights in Indian-administered Kashmir in 2018 by the then-high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, and the second one in 2019 by Michele Bachelet herself did not get any response from the UN Human Rights Council and particularly not from the Western members. In fact, in the OHCHR reports for two consecutive years, the UN Human Rights Council was urged to establish a high-level commission of Inquiry to probe the acute human rights violations in Kashmir, and also offered Islamabad's full cooperation to any such probe while India, on the other hand, rejected these reports on both occasions. International observers expressed great surprise at the extraordinary highlighting of the Xinjiang by the US government, US media, and their Western allies while they all remained completely silent over the issues of grave concerns raised by the OHCHR in the above-mentioned two reports on human rights abuses in Kashmir.

In May this year, Michele Bachelet paid an official visit to Xinjiang and went to cities such as Urumqi and Kashgar. At the conclusion of the visit, she addressed an international press conference to officially share her assessment of the visit on behalf of her office. She told the global media that her visit was the first of its kind in the past 17 years and she spoke directly with the most senior government officials in the country and other interlocutors on key human rights issues in China and globally. She appreciated the Chinese government's efforts in making the visit possible, particularly the arrangements for meeting some of the top leaders of China. She stated that she was also able to meet with State Councilor Wang Yi, the chief justice of the Supreme People's Court, and other senior officials on public security, justice, ethnic affairs and human resources. She informed the media that she also met with the All China Women's Federation and that during her two days in Kashgar and Urumqi, she met with a range of officials, including the secretary of the Chinese Communist Party of Xinjiang, the governor and the vice-governor in charge of public security, among others. And that she also visited Kashgar prison and the Kashgar Experimental School, a former Vocational Education and Training Centre, among other places.

She informed the global community through world media that during her visit, she was able to interact with China's civil society organizations, academics, community and religious leaders, and others inside and outside China. She revealed that in fact even before embarking on a trip to China, her office and she herself met virtually with a number of civil society organizations that were working on issues relating to Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, and other parts of China. Michele further revealed at the press conference that her visit had also been informed by the work of the UN human rights mechanisms on China over many years, and the preparatory work was done by her office and her advanced team.

She said that her visit was an opportunity to hold direct discussions with China's most senior leaders on human rights, to listen to each other, raise concerns, explore and pave the way for more regular, meaningful interactions in the future, with a view to supporting China in fulfilling its obligations under international human rights law.

She told the world media that poverty alleviation and the eradication of extreme poverty 10 years ahead of its target date were tremendous achievements of the Chinese government. She also lauded the Chinese government's introduction of universal health care and an almost universal unemployment insurance scheme that was set to go a long way in ensuring the protection of the right to health and broader social and economic rights of the masses in China. Michele Bachelet told media that China's efforts in support of the multilateral 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, both at home and internationally, were also of a great value.

Michele Bachelet was of the opinion that over the years, there had been important legislative and judicial reforms in China. "On gender equality, I welcome revision of the Law on Protecting Women's Rights and Interests, which should bring about several improvements for protection of women's rights. I also commend the recent reform of the Civil Code that introduced provisions on sexual harassment as well as the anti-domestic violence law that provides for restraining orders to protect women and children at risk. Of course, as in every country, implementation is key, so it will be important for the authorities to be vigilant in that regard and respond to concerns about how the law is applied in practice. I would like to see more women at all levels of political representation, and have encouraged businesses to create the conditions for more women at the top as well."

Michele Bachelet told the international media that she welcomed China's stated aim of ensuring quality development, closely linked to strengthening the rule of law and respect for human rights and said that this was formulated in the Human Rights Action Plan of China and other policy documents. She asserted that the commitment in the Human Rights Action Plan of China to enforce more rigorous procedures for reviewing capital sentences and implement a more stringent mechanism for reporting and reviewing death penalty cases is also a very positive sign.

"My interactions with NGOs in China were also enriching. There is important work being done to advance gender equality, and the rights of LGBTI people, people with disabilities, and older people, among others. China has a tradition of grassroots engagement, and I cannot overstate how important this is. Broadening the space for meaningful participation and advocacy by civil society is crucial to strengthen participation and the freedom of expression," Michele Bachelet told the global media.

"China's recent ratification of the two International Labor Organization Conventions (29 and 105) on forced labor, once deposited, will be a welcome and an important starting point for protecting fundamental principles and rights at work. Beyond ratification, it will now be important to build a broad-based system, encompassing not only labor inspection and enforcement, but prevention and due diligence. Civil society actors – including businesses, trade unions, NGOs, and the media – also have an important role to monitor compliance and highlighting gaps. I encouraged China to engage constructively with ILO," she told the press.

She also said that during her China trip, she was also able to engage with representatives of China's business community and was encouraged to see Chinese companies and sectors embracing human rights standards for their operations and supply chains.

"We agreed to establish regular engagement between the UN Human Rights Office and the Government of China, including through an annual senior strategic meeting for discussion of issues of respective interest at national, regional, or global levels. We also agreed to establish a working group to facilitate substantive exchanges and cooperation between my Office and the Government through meetings in Beijing and in Geneva, as well as virtual meetings. This working group will organize a series of follow-up discussions about specific thematic areas, including but not limited to the development, poverty alleviation and human rights, rights of minorities, business and human rights, counter-terrorism and human rights, digital space and human rights, judicial and legal protection and human rights, as well as other issues raised by either side. This will allow for structured engagement of my Office with China on a number of human rights issues. This is especially important as my Office does not have a country presence. The working group will also provide a space for us to bring to the attention of the Government a number of specific matters of concern. The Chinese Government has also stated that it will invite senior officials from the Office to visit China in the future. I spoke to everyone I met in China – regional and national officials, civil society, academics, diplomats, and others – with candor, with a sincere desire to make progress on the promotion and protection of human rights for all. I hope we can build on this open and frank approach to carry forward these exchanges in a meaningful and impactful way", said Michele Bachelet.

One wonders that after expressing that much satisfaction over the state of affairs of human rights across China in her official statement to the international media, based on her and her office's assessment of the same through the official visit and after expressing clear hope of OHCHR building on an open and frank approach to carry forward the exchanges in a meaningful and impactful way with China, how can her office release a totally indifferent assessment report after just a couple of months when nothing new had happened in the country they visited and assessed?

Pakistan's Daily Mail's investigations indicate that there are multiple reasons behind the rushed-up and dubious release of this OHCHR report. These investigations reveal that first of all the timing of the release of the report itself makes it not only very dubious but also technically knocks it out as it was released much after the official working hours of the OHCHR in Geneva and at the time of the release of this report, Michele Bachelet had already left her office after completion of her tenure while her successor was yet to step into the OHCHR as the new high commissioner. So technically neither Michele nor the incumbent high commissioner, Olker Turk can be linked to this report. So technically this report was released without any high commissioner of the OHCHR in the office and the chair was in an abyss, a fact that clearly makes this report null and void on technical grounds. Julian Borger of the Guardian showed surprise over the timing of the release of the report, saying on Twitter that the report was released merely 10 minutes before the expiry of Michele Bachelet's tenure (technically 10 minutes before the end of her tenure means 11.50 in the night) and famous author David Mulroney tweeted that the OHCHR report on Xinjiang was released just before midnight on Michele Bachelet's last day at OHCHR. This clearly confirms that the report was released in a haphazard manner and thus technically stands nowhere.

Pakistan's Daily Mail's investigations further reveal that soon after her international press conference on May 28 after the conclusion of her Xinjiang trip, Michele Bachelet and her office came became the target of the US government, US politicians, US diplomatic community, and the US media, which was later followed by the all Western media and Western groups at the UN and other world bodies.

These investigations indicate that so much pressure was mounted on Michele Bachelet that she was even asked to resign for not writing an anti-China report. in her Twitter post, a senior US diplomat and America's former fmbassador to the United Nations and a former governor of US state of South Carolina Nikki Haley termed Michele Bachelet's Xinjiang tour and the official narration of her tour before the international media as "Chinese propaganda" and urged the UN Human Rights Council to fire Michele from the OHCHR. A leading US newspaper The Washington Post also hit hard on Michele Bachelet for not condemning China at the press conference.

It shows very clearly that Michele Bachelet did manage to resist the pressure and wrath of the US administration and media until her last day at the OHCHR, but someone at her office finally succumbed to the US rage and somehow released the report via OHCHR's official platform, though again in a very haphazard manner and at dubious hours.

Pakistan's Daily Mail's investigations indicate that while the US government and its functionaries are going crazy about the sham Xinjiang report by the OHCHR, they miserably fail to realize that they actually are a completely irrelevant party to the matters of OHCHR and have no legitimate and moral right to discuss any OHCHR report as right at the time of the formation of the OHCHR, the US government not only refused to become its member but also expressed dissatisfaction on the functioning of such an office and ridiculed and opposed it and till today. The US is not a member of the OHCHR and thus has no legitimate right to discuss OHCHR's proceedings.

Pakistan's Daily Mail's investigations further reveal that the US government has constantly been using pressure tactic and propaganda methodologies to humiliate China through one issue or the other.

According to a new study, shared by The Bridge Initiative, the US, the UK, and India have actually contributed to 86 percent of anti-Muslim content on social media in a period of three years. The three years, when the Americans, Britons, and Indians were otherwise showing utmost pain for the Muslims in Xinjiang.

These investigations further indicate that a media report revealed that one Sheila Carey, head of the Economic/Political Wing of US consulate general in Guangzhou, China, and her associate, identified as Andrew Chira, told some visiting US businessmen at a cocktail reception that the US government hoped that the US businesses "could understand" that using Xinjiang issue to hype the so-called forced labor, genocide, and human rights abuses were actually effective tools fight against the Chinese government and it will ultimately bog down the Chinese government. Later, one of the guests at the event revealed on social media that he had been doing wonderful business with people in Xinjiang for years and never found any evil like forced labor, genocide, and HR violations. The said guest was of the view that the administration of former US president Donald Trump was the one who started these negative tactics and hoped that president Biden and his administration will do away with these practices.

However, the guest got very disappointed to see that his country's diplomats were telling him to continue with the same shameful tactic under Biden's rule and were bent upon destroying the trade deals between American and Chinese traders, so he decided to make the issue public by spreading it through social media platforms. This incident clearly reflects as to what is the level of desperation at Washington to twist China's arm, particularly through Xinjiang issue thus mammoth pressure and multiple tactics were used at the OHCHR in Geneva for such a dubious release of a sham report on Xinjiang.

Pakistan's Daily Mail's investigations further indicate that since the OHCHR is merely a department of the UN Secretariat and is only mandated to offer assistance and help to the UN Human Rights Council, including fulfilling its responsibilities in accordance with related UN resolutions and under the authority of the UN Human Rights Council, it was supposed to restrict its functioning to abiding by the UN Charter and universal, objective, non-political principles to promote international exchanges on human rights development and constructive dialogues among member states. It has a red line that restricts OHCHR not interfere with the internal affairs of the member States whereas in the Xinjiang Report case the report emerges as a blatant violation of the OHCHR mandate, an utter disgrace to the UN Charter, and drastic interference into the clearly internal matters of a sovereign member State. Since it has crossed that red line, it has put its own credibility and legitimacy at stake. Furthermore, as per set rules, OHCHR, prior to publishing this report, was very much supposed to take the Chinese government's advice, get authorization from the UN Human Rights Council, and to include a credible basis which was not found in this case at all, make the report s completely null and void.

Certain investigative journalists and security experts as well human rights activists, however, also raise he questions as why no OHCHR report over the human rights abuses by the US government at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and later at Guantanamo Bay was ever published and similarly why the human rights abuses and acute atrocities by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan were never reported in any such report by the OHCHR?