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“Utilizing the UPR to Highlight and Respond to Ongoing Atrocity Crimes in the Uyghur Region of China”
Remarks As Delivered by Ambassador Michèle Taylor
December 1, 2023

Ambassador Michèle Taylor’s Opening Remarks “Utilizing the UPR to Highlight and Respond to Ongoing Atrocity Crimes in the Uyghur Region of China”

Remarks As Delivered by Ambassador Michèle Taylor

November 30, 2023

Good afternoon excellencies, dear colleagues and friends.  It’s an honor to be here with you today and to stand in solidarity with Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

It has been over a year since then-High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, released an assessment documenting serious human rights concerns in Xinjiang.

After carefully examining the evidence, she concluded that “the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of the Uyghur and predominantly Muslim groups … may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”

The High Commissioner’s assessment offers a strong indictment of the PRC’s human rights violations and abuses and its misuse of counterterrorism policies to justify discriminatory policies and practices.  It highlights the “inherently arbitrary” detention system that is “marked by patterns of torture.”  It offers witness allegations of sexual and gender-based violence.  It includes information on the significant decline in birth rates among Uyghurs as a result of the PRC’s coercive reproductive policies.  It must be noted that many of the report’s conclusions were based on the PRC government’s own data.

In response to these findings, the High Commissioner called for further investigation and made some important recommendations.  The assessment is the beginning of the High Commissioner’s attention to this ongoing situation, not the end.  It must also be our beginning.

Current High Commissioner Volker Türk has stood by the report, which is the work of his office and well within OHCHR’s global human rights mandate.  Indeed, at the 54th session of the Human Rights Council on September 11th, he noted in his opening remarks, “the concerns in Xinjiang UAR require strong remedial action by the authorities, as per our recommendations.”

In response to the human rights situation in Xinjiang, the United States has independently, and in coordination with others, taken concrete actions to help deprive bad actors of resources and hinder their ability to carry on with business as usual.  Since 2020, we have designated 12 persons connected with serious human rights abuses in Xinjiang under the Global Magnitsky sanctions program and imposed visa restrictions on seven officials for their involvement in gross violations of human rights in Xinjiang.  In March 2021, we coordinated with the EU, the UK, and Canada to impose sanctions on several additional individuals and entities.

In addition, we have imposed export controls and import restrictions on entities associated with abuses in Xinjiang and issued withhold release orders on products from Xinjiang that are produced with forced labor. We’ve issued a Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory to highlight the heightened risk to businesses with supply chains and investments in Xinjiang given the number of entities complicit in forced labor and other human rights abuses there and throughout China.

Last fall at the Human Rights Council, on the heels of the release of the High Commissioner’s report, the United States, together with 9 additional core group members, presented a decision to hold a debate on the situation in Xinjiang. While we narrowly did not agree to hold that debate, state after state went on the record calling out the dire human rights situation faced by Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

While it remains challenging to create pathways to justice for the PRC’s atrocities in Xinjiang, the High Commissioner’s assessment offers a solid foundation for further action.

This brings us to today’s event.  The PRC’s upcoming review before the Universal Periodic Review Working Group in January 2024 offers an opportunity for states to take up the concerns highlighted by OHCHR, to stand with Uyghurs and others affected by Beijing’s repressive policies in Xinjiang and to engage with China to improve the human rights situation in the region.

To survivors, eyewitnesses, civil society, and human rights defenders:  I want to thank you for sharing your stories.  We hear your voices.  They matter.

To the representatives of member states:  I encourage all of us to remember that no country is above scrutiny. And that the UPR is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal to collectively uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is imperative upon each of us to provide meaningful recommendations on the human rights situation in Xinjiang.

And to the PRC itself:  I encourage you to engage sincerely with the UPR process, the High Commissioner’s assessment, and Special Procedure mandate holders, and to consider their recommendations regarding the human rights situation in Xinjiang in the cooperative spirit with which they are intended.

Thank you.