The United Nations has accused China of committing serious human rights violations, following an investigation into allegations of abuse against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang province.



  • The UN accused China of serious human rights violations that may amount to “crimes against humanity” in a report examining a crackdown on Uyghurs and other ethnic groups.
  • Human rights groups have accused China of sweeping a million or more people from the minority groups into detention camps.
      • In these detention camps, many have said they were tortured, sexually assaulted, and forced to abandon their language and religion.
  • The assessment, conducted by UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) concluded that China has committed serious human rights violations under its anti-terrorism and anti-extremism policies.
  • It calls for urgent attention from the UN, the world community and China itself to address them.


Who are Uyghurs?

  • The Uyghurs are a nomadic Turkic people native to China’s Xinjiang province.
  • About 12 million Uyghurs live in Xinjiang, with smaller groups in Kazakhstan, Turkey and other countries.
  • They are considered as one of China’s 55 officially recognised ethnic minorities.


About Xinjiang

  • Xinjiang, officially known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), lies in the north-west of China and is the country’s largest province.
      • Like Tibet, it is autonomous, meaning – in theory – it has some powers of self-governance.
      • But in practice, both regions are subjected to major restrictions by the central government.
  • The region produces about one fifth of the world’s cotton.
  • It is also rich in oil and natural gas and because of its proximity to Central Asia and Europe, it is seen by China as an important trade link.


Why is there tension between the Chinese Communist Party and the Uyghurs?

  • Most Uyghurs are Muslim and Islam is an important part of their life and identity.
  • Their language is similar to Turkish language, and they regard themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations.
  • In the early 20th Century, the Uyghurs briefly declared independence for the region but it was brought under the complete control of China’s new Communist government in 1949.
  • In the 1990s, open support for separatist groups increased after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of independent Muslim states in Central Asia.
    • However, the Chinese government suppressed these demonstrations.


Changing demographics of the region

  • Major development projects have brought prosperity to Xinjiang’s big cities, attracting young and technically qualified Han Chinese from eastern provinces.
  • The Han Chinese are said to be given the best jobs while Uyghurs are treated as second class citizens, something that has fuelled resentment among Uyghurs.
  • In 1949, Uyghurs numbered approximately 76% of the total population of the region while Han Chinese accounted for just 6.2%.
  • As per the census 2010 data, the population of the region is now made up of 45% Uyghurs and 40% Han Chinese.


Oppression of the Uyghurs by the Chinese government

  • China has long carried out heavy-handed ethnic assimilation of Uyghurs, but the policies reached new levels under President Xi Jinping.
  • Uyghur commercial and cultural activities have been gradually curtailed by the Chinese state.
    • For example, in July 2014, some Xinjiang government departments banned Muslim civil servants from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
  • In 2017, China began a massive “political re-education program”, with more than 1 million Uyghurs taken into detention.
    • These detentions lasted for months or even years.
  • During the same period, the Xinjiang government rolled out a high-tech surveillance system across the region that tracked Uyghurs’ movements through police checkpoints, facial recognition surveillance cameras and house visits by officials.