The United Nations on Wednesday said that China’s arbitrary detention of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region may constitute “crimes against humanity”.

The United Nations human rights office in its report accused China of violating human rights under its anti-terrorism and anti-extremism policies in the Xinjiang region.

“These human rights violations flow from a domestic anti-terrorism law system that is deeply problematic from the perspective of international human rights norms and standards,” the United Nations agency said.

Since 2017, researchers have claimed that Muslim minorities in Xinjiang have been systemically dehumanised. They have accused China of forced birth control, sexual abuse and torture to destroy the ethnic population.

In June 2021, Amnesty International claimed that thousands of Muslims are living in a “dystopian hellscape” in the region. Muslims told the human rights organisation that they are not allowed to practise Islam and are forbidden from using their mother tongue.

More than a million men and women have been sent to internment camps, which China claims are “re-education” facilities used to combat terrorism, the BBC reported.

Ethnic Uyghurs protest against China near the Chinese Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on May 26, 2022. Credit: Reuters/Umit Bektas

On Thursday too, China claimed that the United Nations report is based on lies fabricated by forces working against the country.

“The so-called ‘assessment’ distorts China’s laws, wantonly smears and slanders China, and interferes in China’s internal affairs,” the country’s diplomatic mission in Geneva said, according to The Associated Press.

It also claimed the United Nations report has ignored human rights achievements made in Xinjiang and the damage caused by terrorism and extremism to the population.

‘Incidents of sexual violence’

The United Nations agency on Wednesday said it has interviewed former detainees of the internment camps from eight locations in the Xinjiang region.

“Allegations were also made of instances of sexual and gender-based violence in VETC [Vocational Education and Training Centres] facilities, including of rape, which also appear credible and would in themselves amount to acts of torture or other forms of ill-treatment,” the report stated.

The agency said that all interviewees described that either injections, pills or both were administered to them regularly and blood samples were regularly collected.

“Some also spoke of various forms of sexual violence, including some instances of rape, affecting mainly women,” the report said. “These accounts included having been forced by guards to perform oral sex in the context of an interrogation and various forms of sexual humiliation, including forced nudity.”

The United Nations report was released on the last working day of High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who has faced criticism from diplomats and rights groups for being lenient with China, according to Reuters.