Asia - Pacific

UN rights chief in China for trip to Xinjiang

Michelle Bachelet’s visit will ‘play active role in advancing cause of international human rights,’ says China’s Foreign Ministry

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 23.05.2022
UN rights chief in China for trip to Xinjiang


The UN human rights chief arrived in China on Monday for an official trip where she will visit Xinjiang, among other places, besides holding talks with Chinese officials.

Wang Wenbin, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, told a news conference in Beijing that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet will meet Chinese leaders and heads of relevant departments.

It has been the first visit by the UN high commissioner for human rights to China since 2005. The visit is taking place at the invitation of Beijing.

“Bachelet will visit Guangdong and Xinjiang (provinces) and have extensive exchanges with all walks of life,” Wang said.

“It is hoped that this visit will further promote exchanges and cooperation between the two sides and play an active role in advancing the cause of international human rights,” he added.

The UN rights chief’s office said last week that during her visit from May 23-28, Bachelet will meet several high-level officials at the national and local levels. But the statement had little information on contacts concerning the minority Uyghurs.

The high commissioner, who will visit Guangzhou, Kashgar, and Urumqi, will also meet civil society organizations, business representatives, and academics, and deliver a lecture at Guangzhou University.

She is expected to hold a news conference at the end of her visit on May 28.

The trip will be held in “closed loop” – the Chinese version of isolating people to avoid getting infected with the coronavirus. No media personnel will be accompanying Bachelet during her trip.

As the visit gets underway, global rights watchdog Amnesty International called on the UN rights chief to “address crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations” when her team visits Xinjiang this week.

The cities of Kashgar and Urumqi are located in the Xinjiang autonomous region, which is home to ethnic Uyghurs.

“Michelle Bachelet’s long-delayed visit to Xinjiang is a critical opportunity to address human rights violations in the region, but it will also be a running battle against the Chinese government’s efforts to cover up the truth. The UN must take steps to mitigate against this and resist being used to support blatant propaganda,” Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnes Callamard said in a statement.

According to the UN data, at least 1 million Uyghurs are kept against their will in places Beijing calls "vocational training centers" and the international community defines them as “re-education camps.”

While the UN and other international organizations have reiterated their calls for the camps to be opened for inspection, China has allowed a small number of foreign diplomats and journalists to visit a few of its designated centers.

Several countries have accused China of ethnic cleansing of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Beijing has denied any wrongdoing, calling the allegations “lies and (a) political virus.”

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