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UN's Bachelet arrives in China, will visit Xinjiang

May 23, 2022

The UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, has traveled to China at Beijing's invitation. But the US has raised doubts about Chinese officials giving her "necessary access" to asses the situation.

Michelle Bachelet pictured at a press conference in Geneva
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, previously served as the president of ChileImage: Denis Balibouse/REUTERS

The UN Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet started her six-day visit to China on Monday , the first such visit in 17 years.

Bachelet "has arrived and is in meetings," her spokesperson told AFP news agency.

The human rights chief is due to meet a number of senior officials at a national and local level. She is also to visit cities of Urumqi and Kashgar in Xinjiang, the Chinese province where Western officials claim Beijing is conducting a massive discrimination campaign against Muslim Uyghurs.  Meetings with civil society organizations, academics and business representatives are also expected to take place.

Amnesty: China committing 'crimes against humanity'

An advance team has been in the country since April to make necessary preparations ahead of the trip.

US skeptical on Bachelet's trip

The US has expressed concern over the amount of access Bachelet will have during the six day trip.

"We have no expectation that the PRC (People's Republic of China) will grant the necessary access required to conduct a complete, unmanipulated assessment of the human rights environment in Xinjiang," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

The US government says what the Chinese government is doing in Xinjiang  amounts to a "genocide" and in December 2021 began instituting sanctions which barred imports from the Xinjiang region.

Right groups allege the Chinese government has arbitrarily detained around one million Uyghurs and individuals from other predominantly Muslim minority groups in "reeducation camps" in the northwestern region. Activists have alleged that individuals in the camps have been subjected to torture, sterilization, forced labor and indoctrination.

Beijing has strongly denied the allegations and says the facilities are vocational training centers aimed at eradicating terrorism.

Activists question Bachelet's 'relative silence' on Xinjiang

Bachelet has also faced an increasing level of criticism over her visit to China and for failing to release a report on the situation commissioned more than three-and-a-half years ago. Human rights activists have been waiting for its publication for months, and called on her to release it without delay.

In March nearly 200 such groups published an open letter to Bachelet, questioning the long delay and pointing out that many of them had clearly documented abuses in Xinjiang. The letter said these included "systematic state-organized mass detention, torture, persecution, and other violations of a scale and nature amounting to crimes against humanity."

The letter said the groups "have been concerned by the relative silence of your office in the face of these grave violations," saying, "We have repeatedly raised alarm, including to your office, over the extreme measures taken by Chinese authorities since 2017."

kb/dj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)