China’s ambassador in Geneva warned Friday that Beijing’s cooperation with the UN rights office was “in danger” after it published a report listing serious abuses in the Xinjiang region.

“We cannot conduct cooperation as if nothing happened, when we were hurt by this exercise,” ambassador Chen Xu told reporters in a virtual briefing organised by the ACANU association of UN correspondents.

Chen Xu United Nations UN Geneva
Chen Xu. Photo: UN Geneva, via Flickr.

Beijing has made no secret of its displeasure with the report, which was released minutes before former UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet left office last week, and warned of possible crimes against humanity in the far-western Xinjiang region.

The report brought the UN seal to allegations long made by campaigners and others, who accuse Beijing of a litany of abuses in Xinjiang, including detaining more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslims, and forcibly sterilising women.

Beijing has vehemently rejected such charges and criticised the report, accusing the UN of becoming a “thug and accomplice of the US and the West”.

Chen stressed that Beijing had expressed its willingness to deepen cooperation with the UN rights office during Bachelet’s visit to China — the first by a UN rights chief in 17 years — last May.

“We reached agreement on a whole set of bilateral cooperation mechanisms,” he pointed out. 

Exterior View of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)
The United Nations Offices in Geneva. Photo: United Nations.

But, he lamented, in the face of “China’s utmost sincerity, the office closed the door… on cooperation by releasing the so-called assessment.”

“The release of an assessment of this nature, I think, puts everything in danger.”

Chen stressed that Beijing remained an ardent supporter of the UN as a whole, and questioned whether the rights office could really be said to represent the global body.

“It is very clear the report was based on political motivations,” he said. “The office has been catering to the political manoeuvres of some countries… to contain China.”

But he said China remained open to working with Bachelet’s successor, Volker Turk of Austria who was appointed late Thursday.

“We are ready to establish a working relationship with the new High Commissioner,” Chen said, voicing hope that Turk would “lead the office to strictly observe the mandate (and) follow the principle of objectivity, impartiality, non-selectivity and non-politicisation.”

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