The CECC also called for countries to refrain from returning Uyghurs to their homeland and instead provide them humanitarian assistance, and also called for other countries to pass their own versions of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin denounced the report as “completely invalid and a political tool serving the US and some Western forces,” criticizing the fact that it was based on the testimony from 40 interviewees, saying that such a small number is “not enough to be used as samples to jump to a serious conclusion against a country on human rights.”
The U.S. Department of State recently warned that the Chinese government is actively attempting to “manipulate and dominate global discourse on Xinjiang and to discredit independent sources reporting ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity.”
The U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery had previously identified two methods of forced labor in Xinjiang, one of which is a system that detains minorities and subjects them to work placements, while the other system shifts rural laborers into other forms of low-skilled, low-paid work. While the Chinese government claims that the programs provide work opportunities for minorities, the report found that “indicators of forced labor pointing to the involuntary nature of work rendered by affected communities have been present in many cases.”
China’s crackdown on Xinjiang also includes alleged coercion to have contraception devices inserted and even allegations from some women of full sterilization. Hospitals in the region have reportedly committed forced late-term abortions on Uyghur women and killed newborn Uyghur babies to enforce China's family planning policies, according to a former hospital worker in the region. Uyghur women, who used to have among the highest fertility rates in the country, have seen precipitous drops in fertility in recent years.
In the most recent report, Bachelet wrote that several women interviewed raised allegations of forced birth control, in particular forced IUD placements and possible forced sterilizations for Uyghur and ethnic Kazakh women. Some women spoke of the risk of harsh punishments including “internment” or “imprisonment” for violations of the family planning policy; some women who said they were forced to have abortions or forced to have IUDs inserted after having reached the permitted number of children under the family planning policy.
“These first-hand accounts, although limited in number, are considered credible,” the report states.
The Vatican has remained largely silent on the persecution of the Uyghurs, though Pope Francis did describe the Uyghurs as a persecuted people in a book published in 2021. The Chinese foreign ministry responded by saying that the claim was groundless.
Other Catholic leaders have condemned China’s actions in Xinjiang, with two Asian cardinals and 74 other religious leaders releasing a statement in August 2020 calling the Chinese government's treatment of Uyghurs "one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust.”
Nothing in the most recent U.N. report is legally binding; even if a majority of countries within the U.N. Human Rights Council were to vote to establish a formal probe, there is no mechanism to compel China to comply, CNN reported.
Jonah McKeown is a staff writer and podcast producer for Catholic News Agency. He holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has worked as a writer, as a producer for public radio, and as a videographer. He is based in St. Louis.