UN Rights Commissioner Concludes China Trip Saying She Urged Beijing 'Rethink' On Uyghurs, Others
By RFE/RL May 28, 2022
The UN's human rights commissioner said at the end of a six-day visit to China on May 28 that she had urged Beijing to rethink policies that may impact negatively on human rights including Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China, but her cautious language highlighted controversy around the visit.
U.S. officials and international rights groups had expressed concerned that the images of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet standing alongside Chinese officials would undermine criticism of policies including the forced internment of more than 1 million Uyghurs in the western province of Xinjiang.
Bachelet's office last year accused Chinese authorities of unlawfully arresting and mistreating Uyghurs in Xinjiang and using them for forced labor.
"I have raised questions and concerns about the application of counterterrorism and deradicalization measures under broad application, particularly the impact on the rights of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities," Bachelet told an online press briefing on May 28.
She stressed that her intention during the trip was not to investigate the allegations of widespread abuse, although it did include a visit to Xinjiang.
"It provides an opportunity for me to better understand the situation in China, but also for the authorities in China to better understand our concerns and to potentially rethink policies that we believe may impact negatively on human rights," Bachelet said.
The secretary-general of human rights group Amnesty International, Agnes Callamard, challenged the idea that the first trip to China by a UN high commissioner for human rights in 17 years helped encourage the release of arbitrary detainees and an end to systematic attacks on ethnic minorities.
"The high commissioner's visit has been characterized by photo opportunities with senior government officials and manipulation of her statements by Chinese state media, leaving an impression that she has walked straight into a highly predictable propaganda exercise for the Chinese government," Callamard said in a press release.
The United Nations has said an estimated 1 million ethnic Uyghurs and other mostly Turkic-speaking Muslim indigenous people of Xinjiang, including Kazakhs, were being held in what it described as counterextremism centers in Xinjiang.
Beijing denies abuses, saying it is reeducating Uyghurs to prevent radical Islam and terrorism.
Successive U.S. administrations have described Beijing's actions in Xinjiang as genocide.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said it was "a mistake [for Bachelet] to agree to a visit under the circumstances."
Based on reporting by Reuters and AP
Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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