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UN Human Rights Office says discussions ongoing for visit to Xinjiang

Spokesman Rupert Colville says visit by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights might take place in first half of year

Peter Kenny   | 28.01.2022
UN Human Rights Office says discussions ongoing for visit to Xinjiang

GENEVA

The United Nations Human Rights Office said Friday that there are ongoing discussions about a possible visit to Xinjiang during the first half of this year by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

UN Rights Office spokesman Rupert Colville was asked to comment at a UN press conference on a report in a Hong Kong newspaper that such a visit might take place before the Beijing Winter Olympics that start on Feb. 4.

"As we've stated many times, from our side, it's important that such a visit be meaningful, with unsupervised access to a wide range of civil society actors and locations, as well as high-level arrangement with government officials," said Colville.

"But clearly, it's not going to take place before the start of the Olympics. The parameters of that visit are still very much under discussion. There's no final decision or agreement."

Colville was also asked about a pending report from Bachelet's office regarding the Xinjiang region where the minority Uyghurs live.

"When we produce these reports, we're often making very serious allegations, which are tied to very serious elements of law, international law, humanitarian law, human rights, law, whatever," said the UN rights office official.

"So, I don't exactly know where we are in that. But I know we're in the final stages.

Since she assumed office in 2018, UN Human Rights Office chief Michelle Bachelet has been calling on China to allow her office access to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

No progress

At the Human Rights Council on Sept. 13, she said she was sorry that there was no progress on the issue.

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 as "re-education camps".

China does not provide information on how many camps there are in Xinjiang, how many people there are, and how many of them have returned to social life.

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

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

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