BEIJING — Allegations of human rights abuses in northwest China’s Xinjiang region will dominate a visit by the United Nations’ top human rights envoy that began Monday.
Michelle Bachelet’s trip is the first to China by a UN high commissioner for human rights since 2005, and human rights groups warn against whitewashing abuses by the ruling Communist Party in Xinjiang.
China jailed an estimated one million or more members of Uyghur, Kazakh and other Muslim minorities in what critics say is a campaign to erase their diverse cultural identities. China says it has nothing to hide and welcomes all without political bias to visit Xinjiang and see what it calls a successful campaign to restore order and ethnic cohesion.
Bachelet began her six-day visit in the southern city of Guangzhou and will travel to the Xinjiang cities of Kashgar, once a station on the Silk Road, and Urumqi, the region’s capital. Details have been kept top secret and the Chinese Communist Party-controlled media have not reported on her visit.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin confirmed Bachelet’s arrival and said she would hold “wide exchanges with all sectors”. No journalists will travel to China with her, but Bachelet “will update the media about her visit in due course,” Wang said at a daily briefing on Monday.
“I hope this visit will further promote exchanges and cooperation between the two sides and play an active role in promoting the international cause of human rights,” he said.
A key issue is whether Bachelet will be allowed to visit the former detention camps, which China describes as vocational training and education centers, and meet with people imprisoned for calls for greater religious, political and cultural freedoms, such as Ilham Tohti, an economist and Sakharov Prize Winner.
China has also been accused of using forced labour, forced birth control and separating children from their imprisoned parents. Monitoring group The Dui Hua Foundation says fasting for Ramadan or selling Islamic books have also been targeted.
It’s not clear if Bachelet will be able to meet with officials who have spearheaded the crackdown in Xinjiang, including former regional party secretary Chen Quanguo, who is now an official in Beijing.
Bachelet, a former president of Chile, plans to speak to senior national and local officials, civil society organizations, business leaders and academics, and to give a lecture to students at Guangzhou University, her office said.
Human rights groups have demanded more information and accountability from China about its policies in Tibet and Inner Mongolia, which limit the cultural rights of minorities. A crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong has also prompted the US and others to impose sanctions on local and Chinese central government officials.
According to Amnesty International, Bachelet will have to “address crimes against humanity and serious human rights abuses” during her trip.
“Michelle Bachelet’s long-delayed visit to Xinjiang is a crucial opportunity to address human rights abuses in the region, but it will also be an ongoing battle against the Chinese government’s efforts to cover up the truth,” Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said in a statement .
“The UN must take steps to counter this and resist being used to support overt propaganda,” Callamard said.
Bachelet’s trip precedes the release of a long-awaited report on the human rights situation in Xinjiang. Nearly 200 human rights groups have urged Bachelet to release her report, which diplomats said was ready months ago — or very close to it.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price repeated that call last Friday, saying the US and others had been calling for his release for months.
“The High Commissioner’s continued silence in the face of indisputable evidence of atrocities in Xinjiang and other human rights violations and abuses across the PRC … is deeply concerning, particularly as she is, and should be, the leading UN voice on human rights,” Price said. using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China.
He said the US was “deeply concerned” by Bachelet’s visit and had “no expectation that the PRC will provide the necessary access required to conduct a full, unrigged assessment of the human rights environment in Xinjiang.”
The US government has said Beijing’s policy against the Uyghurs amounts to genocide and crimes against humanity. Legislators in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada have done the same.
China denies the allegations, claiming its policies aim to deradicalize those influenced by jihadist propaganda following years of violent outbursts against Chinese rule in the region.
https://nypost.com/2022/05/25/xinjiang-in-focus-as-un-rights-chief-arrives-for-china-visit/ Xinjiang in focus as UN ruler arrives to visit China