By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA – Now that the Beijing Winter Olympics is over, U.N. rights chief Michelle Bachelet must release her long-delayed report on alleged violations in China’s Xinjiang region against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.
Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, urged Bachelet to issue her office’s findings before her March 7 speech to the main annual session of the U.N. Human Rights Council which opens next week.
Roth, noting that Bachelet’s spokesperson had said in early December that the report would be released within weeks, told a news briefing in Geneva: “We still don’t have it, we are at a loss as to what is going on…There is just no longer any excuse for this ongoing, long delay.”
There was no immediate comment from Bachelet’s office.
Diplomats have also voiced dismay at the unexplained delay and fears that the evidence Bachelet’s office may have collected over the past three years may lose their relevance.
Rights groups accuse China of widescale abuses against Uyghurs and other minority groups, including the torture, forced labour and detention of one million people in internment camps. China says the camps are re-education and training facilities and denies any abuse, saying it is fighting religious extremism.
Erkin Tuniyaz, vice governor of Xinjiang, told an event organised by China’s mission to the U.N. in Geneva on Tuesday that the autonomous region was thriving and that people had jobs, healthcare, education and social security.
“Xinjiang now enjoys social stability, economic development, and people live in peace and contentment,” he said.
“For some time, the anti-China forces in the U.S. and some Western countries maliciously fabricated lies such as forced labour and genocide,” he added, referring to allegations by the United States and some allies that led to their diplomatic boycott of the Olympics.
Bachelet’s office said last month that conversations were underway for a possible trip to the area in northwest China in the first half of the year. The South China Morning Post reported that a visit had been agreed for after the Olympics which ended last Sunday.
Bachelet may visit Xinjiang but China does not welcome any investigation based on the presumption of guilt, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Saturday.