Dopo la missione ONU di Michelle Bachelet in Xinjiang la UNHR pubblica un report in cui la Cina è accusata di gravi violazioni e potenziali crimini ai danni della popolazione Uighur.
Il documento, pubblicato 13 minuti prima della fine del mandato del capo dei diritti umani delle Nazioni Unite Michelle Bachelet, è arrivato quattro anni dopo un rapporto innovativo del Comitato delle Nazioni Unite per l'eliminazione della discriminazione razziale che ha rivelato che più di un milione di persone erano detenute in una rete di centri di detenzione in tutto lo Xinjiang.
Ecco cosa sono i "campi di rieducazione" secondo il "rapporto Bachelet"
IV. Imprisonment and other forms of deprivation of liberty
36. As indicated above, the Government has explained that its counter-terrorism and counter-“extremism” system is based on a distinction between “serious” acts that merit
punishment through the criminal justice system and “minor” cases that require leniency,
education and rehabilitation. Under the latter, administrative track, individuals of concern
would generally be placed in a so-called “Vocational Education and Training Centre” (VETC).87 The Government has maintained that the VETC facilities have been closed since
A. Referrals to “Vocational Education and Training Centres”
37. In October 2018, shortly after the Government first stated the existence of “vocational
training centres”, the Xinjiang Implementing Measures for the P.R.C. Counter-Terrorism
Law (“XIM”) and the XUAR Regulation on De-extremification (“XRD”) were both revised
to explicitly introduce provisions permitting the establishment of such centres.89 In mid-2019, in a follow-up response to the CERD Committee, the Government reported that it had established "vocational education and training centres, in accordance with the law, to
eradicate the breeding ground and conditions for the spread of terrorism and religious
38. According to the Government’s 2019 White Paper on “Vocational Education and
Training in Xinjiang” and relevant legal provisions, three categories of individuals can be
held in such centres. The first category includes individuals who have been convicted for
terrorist or “extremist” crimes and who are, upon completion of their sentence “assessed as
still posing a potential threat to society”.91 Such people are, according to the law, sent to
VETC facilities by a court decision.92 The second category includes “people who were
incited, coerced or induced into participating in terrorist or extremist activities, or people who participated in terrorist or extremist activities in circumstances that were not serious enough to constitute a crime”.93 Those people can be referred to VETC facilities upon a decision of the police.94 The third category consists of “people who were incited, coerced or induced into participating in terrorist or extremist activities, or people who participated in terrorist or extremist activities that posed a real danger but did not cause actual harm”.95 In these cases the procuratorate can decide to waive a sentence on the condition that the offender’s “subjective malice is not deep and they can sincerely repent and voluntarily accept education and assistance”.96
39. In the same 2019 White Paper, the Government stated that “education and training [in VETC facilities] is not a measure to limit or circumscribe the freedom of the person”, while in its response to the CERD Committee it stated that VETC facilities are “schools by nature”.97
Under international human rights law, however, a deprivation of liberty occurs
when a person “is being held without his or her free consent”, 98 involving a “more severe
restriction of motion within a narrower space than mere interference with liberty of movement”.99 A deprivation of liberty, within the meaning of international human rights law, can occur in any type of location and does not need to be officially labelled as such.
40. The 2019 White Paper on “Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang” states that
the centres are “residential”, and that referral follows a decision by the court or public security officials, rather than being voluntary. This is the case even for referrals by the procuratorate, where the concerned individual is given a “choice” between referral to a VETC facility and a prison sentence, implying that placement in a VETC is a form of alternative sanction to a prison sentence.
41. Individuals interviewed by OHCHR who had been placed in VETC facilities
described being taken to such facilities, usually by public security officials. The majority of
the interviewees who were apprehended between 2017 and 2019 were held at a police station before referral to a VETC facility. 100
They said that they were told that they had to go to a VETC facility and were not given an alternative option. None of the interviewees felt they could challenge the referral process, and none had access to a lawyer prior to being sent to the VETC facility nor at any point during the time they were present there. Several underwent long interrogations in police stations before their eventual placement.
42. Not a single interviewee said they were able to exit the facility or go home for a visit.
At the VETC facilities, all interviewees observed significant security presence and guards
armed with guns and/or batons (including electric ones), and mostly wearing police
uniforms.101 Lengths of stays in the VETC facilities varied, but generally interviewees spent between two months and 18 months in the facilities. None of them were informed of the length of their stays when they were taken to the facility. About half of the interviewees
reported that they were allowed occasional visits by or phone calls with a relative, although
only under close surveillance.102 The other half had no contact with their family and often
their families did not know where they were.103
43. Chinese Government-affiliated media has regularly disseminated promotional videos
about VETC facilities. Those interviewed in such videos either welcomed their stays or said
that it had helped them from being drawn to terrorism or “extremism”.
104 Those interviewed by OHCHR, in contrast, said they were explicitly told by guards to be positive about their experience in the facility when outsiders or family members would visit.105 One interviewee, for example, reported that ahead of a visit by a foreign delegation they were told to say that “everything was fine”, that they could return home every night, that they were studying and that the food was acceptable.
106 Moreover, some interviewees reported being explicitly prohibited to disclose any information about the facility once released, with some having to sign a document to this effect.107
44. The Government has claimed that “attendees are free to join or quit programs at any
time”.108 Consistent accounts obtained by OHCHR, however, indicate a lack of free and
informed consent to being placed in the centres; that it is impossible for an individual
detained in such a heavily guarded centre to leave of their own free will; and that a stay in a VETC facility is, from the concerned individual’s perspective, of indefinite nature, the end
of which is only determined by meeting undefined criteria as evaluated by the authorities. As such, given that placement in the VETC facilities is not voluntary and the individuals placed in such centres appear to have had no choice, placements in VETC facilities amount to a form of deprivation of liberty.
45. International human rights law requires deprivations of liberty not to be arbitrary. The
prohibition of arbitrary detention, enshrined in articles 9 of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is both a norm
of customary international law and peremptory norm of international law.110 As the UN
Human Rights Committee, monitoring the implementation of the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights, has explained in authoritative guidance, the notion of
“arbitrariness” is not to be equated with “against the law”: an arrest or detention may be
authorized by domestic law and nonetheless be arbitrary, when there are elements of
inappropriateness, injustice, lack of predictability and due process of law, as well as lack of
elements of reasonableness, necessity and proportionality.111 In the same vein, the UN
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that assesses complaints of arbitrary detention from
individual complainants in member states, for its part, considers a deprivation of liberty
arbitrary when it is clearly impossible to invoke any legal basis justifying the deprivation of
liberty, including cases of deprivation of liberty in the absence of any legislative provision,
as well as in cases of grave non-observance of the international norms relating to the right to a fair trial.112 Such protections include the right to be informed of one’s rights and the reasons for arrest, and to have sufficient access to lawyers and family members.113 Under
international human rights law, a detention is also arbitrary when used in response to the
legitimate exercise of human rights, such as the exercise of the rights to freedom of opinion or expression, freedom to leave one’s own country, freedom of religion, and the right of minorities to enjoy their own culture, profess their own religion or use their own language.114
46. Several key features of the VETC system raise concern from this perspective. Firstly,
deprivations of liberty in residential facilities appear to have been without any apparent legal basis for a considerable period. The Xinjiang Implementing Measures for the P.R.C. CounterTerrorism Law (“XIM”) and the XUAR Regulation on De-extremification (“XRD”) were amended in October 2018 to authorize the establishment of the VETCs and the referral of individuals for residential programmes,115 although the wave of referrals to VETCs had already commenced well prior, from April 2017.116 Further, as discussed above, the XIM and XRD are vague in scope, vulnerable to overly broad interpretations, and therefore arbitrary and discriminatory application.
47. Secondly, as described above, the grounds on which individuals can be referred to and
placed in VETCs encompass conduct that is prima facie lawful, including as an expression
or manifestation of the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms. Various innocuous
reasons for referral to a VETC are described in the so-called “Karakax list”, a document
which is in the public domain appearing to be a Government document possibly from 2019
and highly likely to be authentic. This list, consisting of a spreadsheet with information about Uyghur “trainees” in VETC facilities in one specific district in XUAR, includes 311
individuals and the reasons for their referral. These reasons include having too many children, being an “unsafe person,” being born in certain years, being an ex-convict, wearing a veil or beard, having applied for a passport and not having left the country, and so on.
117 Similar reasons for referral were reported to OHCHR by former detainees, who described referral to VETC facilities for travelling or for having foreign connections, attempting to cancel their Chinese citizenship, possessing dual registration in a neighbouring country, or for having downloaded WhatsApp. Others were simply told that they were on a list or that a quota had to be fulfilled. Due to the subjective means by which assessments appear to be conducted, the risk of arbitrary detention of persons in VETC facilities is acute.
48. Thirdly, placements in VETCs appear to lack the process due in any context of
detention, effectively depriving concerned individuals of the safeguards and protections that must accompany detentions as a matter of international law. Detainees do not appear to have access to lawyers or to be informed of the duration for their placement or the criteria for release, which are not spelled out in the law. Persons with which OHCHR spoke described some form of process, often shortly before their release, at which they were “informed” of their wrongdoing, of the authorities’ leniency in their case and of their sentencing to a prison term that subsequently seemed to have been waived (as evidenced by their release). These accounts comport and align with other indications that, around October 2018, there was an attempt to retroactively “regularize” the status of people in the VETC facilities. As explained above, on 9 October 2018, XUAR laws were amended to explicitly authorize their establishment and use.118 In a video published on 16 October 2018,119 the Government also referred to “twice inform and once announce” sessions, a quasi-legal process in which the authorities inform the person and their family about the nature of their involvement in terrorist activities, further inform them about the nature of their involvement in “extremist” activities, and thereupon announce the Government’s policy of showing leniency in accordance with the law.120 One interviewee described his experience as follows: “I was not told what I was there for and how long I would be there. I was asked to confess a crime, but I did not know what I was supposed to confess to.”121
49. A number of interviewees described being “sentenced” in the VETC facility,
122 and some described being brought to the “court” in groups.123 No lawyers were present at these sessions and persons interviewed reported being required to “choose” their offences from a list of some 75 or 72 “crimes”.124 Such proceedings – in many cases taking place after months of detention – suggest that the criminal and administrative tracks to address allegations of “extremism” and “terrorism” offences have in practice often been intertwined, with criminal proceedings apparently being used to pressure people into accepting a referral to a VETC facility, to retroactively justify such referrals, or to curtail and control people post-release through a provisional release order that can be revoked. In essence, the combination of these processes provides officials with effective power of extraordinary breadth to subject individuals to deprivation of liberty and to return them thereto after release.
50. Fourthly, the nature and functional purpose of the educational programmes in VETC
facilities also pose concern given their orientation towards political re-education. The XIM
states that the purpose of the VETCs is to both educate and rehabilitate people who have been influenced by “extremism”, including in “occupational skills education and training centres and other education and transformation establishments”.
125 The Government’s White Paper on “Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang” states that the VETCs “deliver a curriculum that includes standard spoken and written Chinese, understanding of the law, vocational skills, and deradicalization.” In its examination of China under the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111) and the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122), the ILO Committee of Experts on the Enforcement and Application of Standards expressed concern that the vocational training policy was “at least in part carried out in high-security and high surveillance settings”126 and requested the Government to re-orient the mandate of vocational training and education centres “from political re-education based on administrative detention towards the broader purposes of the Convention”, namely full, productive and freely chosen employment.127 OHCHR requested
but did not receive from the Government information on the curriculum and skills recognition system in the centres. First-hand accounts to OHCHR, however, revealed a strong emphasis on “political teachings” and rehabilitation based on self-criticism.128 Such coercive administrative measures129 are considered “inherently arbitrary” by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.130
51. Finally, considering that the criteria for referral to VETC facilities are in large measure
based on forms of ethnic, religious and cultural identity and expression, there is a significant concern that deprivations of liberty in VETC facilities are applied discriminatorily, which compounds the arbitrary character of detention in the centres.
52. The Government has not released official data about the number of individuals who
have undergone re-education in VETCs. In 2018, the UN Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination noted that “estimates of the number of people detained range from tens of thousands to over a million”, and called on the Government to provide statistics for the past five years.132 In response, the Government asserted that it was not possible to state the number of those taking part in education and training, because it “is dynamic, as people are continuously coming and going,”133 a position it has maintained since.
53. Various official Government documents and statements, however, give indication as
to the scale of the programme. The 2019 White Paper on “Vocational Training and Education in Xinjiang” suggests that it wasintended not just for isolated cases, but for “many people”.134
Moreover, some Government documents and statements, predating 2017, provide insight into the authorities’ perception of the “extremist” threat in XUAR and corresponding needs for “education”, which further suggest the potential of impacting significant proportions of the relevant population in XUAR. 135 Additionally, Government documents that are in the public domain and appear credible refer not only to the existence of VETC facilities across the geographic span of XUAR, but indicate a large-scale bureaucracy and methodology is in
place for their operation and implementation.136 Available satellite imagery from public
sources similarly provide indications of many structures with security features such as high
walls, watch towers, and barbed-wired external and internal fencing, which appear to have
been established or expanded across XUAR, since 2016, concurrent with the “Strike Hard”
54. Individuals with direct knowledge and personal experience of detention in VETC
facilities told OHCHR that they had been held alongside many others and that they personally
knew numerous other relatives and friends placed in VETC facilities. As one person
described it, “every neighbour had someone in the camps or ‘taken to study’, as they call
it.”138 Individuals interviewed by OHCHR were held in VETC facilities in at least eight
different geographic locations spread across XUAR.
55. In the absence of officially available data, other researchers have drawn on a
combination of sources and data points to assess and estimate the extent of the affected
population. These include documents that appear to be official, tender notices, and satellite
imagery, shedding light on the scale of detention in VETC facilities.
139 Some analysis is also
based on documents that appear to provide information about the detention status of residents
from various prefectures and counties in XUAR. Based on the methodology employed, it has
been estimated that around 10-20 per cent of the adult “ethnic population” in these counties and townships were subjected to some form of detention between 2017 and 2018.140
56. On the basis of the information currently before it, OHCHR is not in a position to
confirm estimates of total numbers of individuals affected by the VETC system.
Cumulatively, however, these different sources of information support a conclusion that the
system of VETC facilities was intended and operated on a wide scale spanning the geographic entirety of the region. In the absence of plausible information indicating the contrary, and while a specific number of detainees in VETC facilities cannot be confirmed, reasonable conclusion can be drawn from the available information that the number of individuals in the VETCs, at least between 2017 and 2019, was very significant, comprising a substantial proportion of the Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minority populations.
57. In summary, based on the information reviewed, it is reasonable to conclude that a
pattern of large-scale arbitrary detention occurred in VETC facilities, at least during 2017 to
2019, affecting a significant proportion of the Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim
ethnic minority community in XUAR. The Government has indicated that VETC facilities
are now closed and that all “trainees have graduated”,141 thereby suggesting that these
facilities may no longer be in use. OHCHR is not in a position to confirm this, which is
primarily due to the lack of relevant official or other information since the end of 2019 and
access for on-the-ground verification. Regardless, considerable concerns remain, most
notably due to the fact that the legal and policy framework that underpins the operation of
the VETC system remains in place and, to the extent not currently employed, could be reengaged at any point.
Il rapporto Bachelet esamina anche altri aspetti: il durissimo sistema penitenziario, le discriminazioni sociali, la soppressione della cultura e della religione, le intimidazioni e il sistema di sorveglianza.
Le conclusioni sono allarmanti e confermano le precedenti denunce: contro gli Uighuri la Cina ha messo in atto un sistema di "crimini contro l'umanità".
La Cina ovviamente negherà le rivelazioni del rapporto, attribuendole alla propaganda occidentale contro Pechino.
Il regime di Xi Jinping aveva fatto di tutto, prima per impedire e poi per addomesticare, la missione dell'ONU nello Xinjiang.
Michelle Bachelet, alquanto restia a schierarsi contro la Cina che è tra i paesi che l'hanno eletta a capo della UNHR, alla fine ha dovuto cedere alle evidenze. Pochi minuti prima che scadesse il suo mandato di Presidente della Commissione, ha autorizzato la pubblicazione del rapporto, scatenando l'ira dei cinesi.