Geneva: UN rights human chief Michelle Bachelet has signalled that she might not release a long-awaited report on human rights abuses in China's far western region of Xinjiang before she leaves office next week, as she had promised.

Nick Cumming-Bruce reports from Geneva, covering the United Nations, human rights and international humanitarian organizations and Austin Ramzy, a Hong Kong reporter, focusing on coverage of the city, writing in The New York Times (NYT) said that the high commissioner for human rights has repeatedly postponed its release, reinforcing perceptions that UN leadership is reluctant to stand up to China.

The delay of that report, which Beijing has worked to block, has already exposed her to fierce criticism from human rights groups.

Four years after academics, activists and independent UN experts first sounded the alarm over reports that China had arbitrarily detained more than a million Uyghurs and members of other predominately Muslim groups in Xinjiang, human rights groups have looked to the United Nations to provide an independent assessment that could help hold Beijing accountable and bring some relief to victims and their families.

Bachelet at a news conference on Thursday said that she was "trying very hard" to meet the end-of-August deadline, which she had imposed herself in June upon returning from an official visit to China in May, reported NYT.

She said a draft version of the report had been submitted to the Chinese government, a standard procedure for her office. They had received "substantial input" from China that had to be reviewed before publication.

Bachelet said the report her office had prepared would look in depth at the reports of human rights violations, and that her office would take on board only statements of fact in China's response.

Still, the possibility of the report's further delay has deepened the frustration of activists and added to their sense that the UN human rights office has failed in its task of championing the rights of abuse victims, said Cumming-Bruce and Ramzy.

"This is precisely the press conference that China wanted. That's a response that will do nothing but embolden Chinese authorities and other autocrats around the world," said Sophie Richardson, the China director of Human Rights Watch. "This is a very worrying sign for the capacity of the UN human rights system to challenge powerful states."

Ten months have passed since Bachelet's office first signalled plans to publish the results of its investigation into China's crackdown in Xinjiang.

Bachelet has repeatedly postponed the report's release with little explanation -- baffling diplomats, rights advocates and even some of her own staff members.

In December her spokesman announced plans to publish the report within weeks, but it failed to appear, reinforcing perceptions of a United Nations leadership reluctant to stand up to China.

Meanwhile, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, facing an acute UN budget squeeze and a Security Council often paralyzed by division, has avoided public criticism of China, which is the second-biggest contributor to the UN budget, a major troop contributor to UN peacekeeping, and a crucial partner in his efforts to advance the UN's Social Development Goals, said Cumming-Bruce and Ramzy.

Bachelet has mostly confined her comments on Xinjiang to mild expressions of concern over allegations of abuse. On Thursday, she justified delaying the report's publication, saying she had wanted to prioritize her visit to China, the first by a UN rights chief in 17 years.

Notably, former detainees in Xinjiang have described physical abuse, mistreatment and hours of indoctrination in official Communist Party ideology, reported NYT.

Speaking in her last news conference, Bachelet gave a glimpse of the pressure she faced in preparing the report when she spoke of receiving "huge numbers" of letters daily over the last year. They included a letter from China, signed by around 40 countries, urging her not to publish the report, Bachelet said.

The text of the letter prepared by China that circulated among diplomatic missions in Geneva in recent weeks warned that the report's release would "intensify politicization and bloc confrontation in the area of human rights," undermine the credibility of her office and harm its relations with member states.

Meanwhile, China rejects allegations of atrocities in Xinjiang as "lies" and its response to the UN investigation reflects Beijing's concerns about defending its Xinjiang policy from criticism abroad and its determination to deter governments from taking action in the Human Rights Council.