Western powers weigh calling for China Uyghur abuses inquiry at UN

The outgoing UN human rights commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, issued a report on her last day in office - August 31 - claiming there was clear evidence of crimes against humanity committed by China during its suppression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province. It was the first time the UN made such a serious allegation against China, The Guardian reported.

Western powers are weighing the risk of a potential defeat if they table a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council calling for an independent commission to investigate alleged human rights abuses by China in Xinjiang, The Guardian reported.

The issue is a litmus case for Chinese influence at the UN, as well as the willingness of the UN to endorse a worldview that protects individual rights from authoritarian states.

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The outgoing UN human rights commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, issued a report on her last day in office - August 31 - claiming there was clear evidence of crimes against humanity committed by China during its suppression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province. It was the first time the UN made such a serious allegation against China, The Guardian reported.

The report found evidence of systemic discrimination, mass arbitrary detention, torture, and sexual and gender-based violence.

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Also read | UN human rights office renews call for China to release all Uyghurs from detention

Western leaders, in uncharted waters, are hesitating whether to table a resolution setting up an investigatory mechanism into China at the Human Rights Council (HRC), which started meeting in Geneva last week and runs to October 7.

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Olaf Wientzek, from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation thinktank, said: "If such a resolution were passed, it would be a watershed moment for the HRC and increase its credibility. Taking on China would be a first."

However, China's diplomats have already been mobilising, and on Tuesday the Chinese ambassador in Geneva issued a statement, backed by 30 countries, accusing the UN rights office of acting without a mandate and warning of the exaggeration of "an existing trend to western polarisation and politicisation of human rights," The Guardian reported.

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The number of signatories represents the hardcore that regularly supports China and was below the 40 that signed a statement in June urging Bachelet not to publish her report, but Wientzek said: "This may reflect the fact that the latest Chinese statement directly criticised the UN human rights office, and was not the usual discourse directed against a group of mainly western countries."

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