GENEVA    -   The UN has accused China of “serious human rights violations” in a long-awaited report into allegations of abuse in Xinjiang province.

China had urged the UN not to re­lease the report - with Beijing call­ing it a “farce” arranged by Western powers. The report assesses claims of abuse against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities, which China denies. But investigators said they found “credible evidence” of tor­ture possibly amounting to “crimes against humanity”.

Human rights groups have been sounding the alarm over what is hap­pening in the north-western prov­ince for years, alleging that more than one million Uyghurs had been detained against their will in a large network of what the state calls “re-education camps”. The BBC’s own reporting in recent years has uncov­ered documentation - including po­lice files detailing those in detention, which appear to support the claims, as well as allegations of rape, torture and forced sterilisation.

China has always vociferously de­nied any wrongdoing.

However, the UN’s report con­cluded that “the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other pre­dominantly Muslim groups ... may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity”.

It also found: “Allegations of pat­terns of torture or ill-treatment, in­cluding forced medical treatment and adverse conditions of detention, are credible, as are allegations of indi­vidual incidents of sexual and gender-based violence” “Credible indications of violations of reproductive rights through the coercive enforcement of family planning policies since 2017”

“Similarly, there are indications that labour and employment schemes for purported purposes of poverty al­leviation and prevention of ‘extrem­ism’... may involve elements of coer­cion and discrimination on religious and ethnic grounds” The report rec­ommended that China immediately takes steps to release “all individuals arbitrarily deprived of their liberty”. Beijing has already rejected the find­ings, with Foreign Ministry spokes­person Wang Wenbin telling report­ers the “so-called suggestions were pieced together based on disinforma­tion to serve political objectives”. The World Uyghur Congress welcomed the report and urged a swift interna­tional response. “Despite the Chinese government’s strenuous denials, the UN has now officially recognised that horrific crimes are occurring,” Uyghur Human Rights Project Execu­tive Director Omer Kanat said. There are about 12 million Uyghurs, mostly Muslim, living in Xinjiang.