China is committing crimes against humanity in its Xinjiang province, the north-western region of the country that is home to the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, Amnesty International said on Thursday.
The human rights organisation, in a published report on Xinjiang, has called on the UN to investigate, and said China had subjected Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims to mass detention, surveillance, and torture.
Agnès Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International, accused Chinese authorities of creating “a dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale”.
“It should shock the conscience of humanity that massive numbers of people have been subjected to brainwashing, torture and other degrading treatment in internment camps, while millions more live in fear amid a vast surveillance apparatus,” Ms. Callamard said.
She also accused UN Secretary General António Guterres of “failing to act according to his mandate”.
Mr. Guterres “has not denounced the situation, he has not called for an international investigation”, Ms. Callamard told the BBC. “It is incumbent on him to protect the values upon which the United Nations has been founded, and certainly not to stay silent in front of crimes against humanity.”
The 160-page report of Amnesty, published on Thursday, is based on interviews with 55 former detainees of the Chinese internment camp in the region.
Amnesty said there was evidence the Chinese state had committed “at least the following crimes against humanity: imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law; torture; and persecution.”
The report follows a similar set of findings by Human Rights Watch, which said in an April report that it believed the Chinese government was responsible for crimes against humanity.
China has been accused by some Western nations and rights groups of pursuing a genocide against the Turkic ethnic groups in Xinjiang – though there is dispute over whether the state’s actions constitute a genocide.
The author of the Amnesty report, Jonathan Loeb, said at press conference on Thursday that the organisation’s research “did not reveal that all the evidence of the crime of genocide had occurred” but that it had so far “only scratched the surface”.
China routinely denies all accusations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
In its report, Amnesty said the Chinese government’s actions showed a “clear intent to target parts of Xinjiang’s population collectively on the basis of religion and ethnicity and to use severe violence and intimidation to root out Islamic religious beliefs and Turkic Muslim ethno-cultural practices”.
The organisation said it believed those taken to the network of camps in Xinjiang were “subjected to a ceaseless indoctrination campaign as well as physical and psychological torture”.
Those torture methods, according to the report, included “beatings, electric shocks, stress positions, the unlawful use of restraints (including being locked in a tiger chair), sleep deprivation, being hung from a wall, being subjected to extremely cold temperatures, and solitary confinement”.
Amnesty also said that the camp system in Xinjiang appeared to be “operating outside the scope of the Chinese criminal justice system or other known domestic law”, and that there was evidence detainees had been transferred from camps to prisons.
Though many of the findings have been previously reported, Amnesty’s investigation is likely to add to international pressure on China over its actions in Xinjiang.
The US state department has previously described it as a genocide, and the parliaments of the UK, Canada, Netherlands and Lithuania have passed resolutions making the same declaration.
In March, the EU, US, UK and Canada imposed sanctions on Chinese officials over the alleged abuses. China responded by imposing retaliatory sanctions on lawmakers, researchers and institutions.
An independent series of hearings was held in London last week, led by the prominent British barrister Sir Geoffrey Nice, aiming to assess the allegations of genocide. (Source: BBC)