UN rights chief lowers expectations of heavily guarded visit to Xinjiang — Radio Free Asia


The UN human rights chief traveled to China on Monday to the dismay and anger of human rights groups and Uyghur activists as she told diplomats that her trip in Xinjiang this week would not be an “investigation” into what was seen as an effort to lower expectations. .

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet arrived in China and said in a video call with around 100 attendees, mostly Beijing-based diplomats, that setting high expectations would lead to disappointment, according to the Bloomberg news agency, which quoted the participants without naming them.

The trip by Bachelet, a former Chilean president who is the first rights chief to visit China since 2005, has raised fears he could be used by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to whitewash and legitimize its record on of rights.

“Michelle Bachelet’s long-delayed visit to Xinjiang is a critical 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,” he said. declared Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard.

“The UN must take steps to mitigate this and resist being used to support blatant propaganda,” she added in a statement.

“To turn this historic visit to China into a promotional tour would be a mistake that tarnishes the reputation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and leaves Uighurs facing genocide at the hands of China to fight alone,” the Washington said. – Uyghur based campaign.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Bachelet will travel in a “closed loop”, ostensibly to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission, which means she will not be able to meet anyone outside of China. the list of contacts pre-established by the Chinese authorities. .

Nor will any journalist be able to travel with her during the May 23-28 trip, Wang said.

“Of course the Chinese government, intolerant of freedom of speech and press, didn’t want journalists traveling with @UNHumanRights @mbachelet. But did the UN try to advocate for it? No one not representing #humanrights, #democracy shouldn’t make this mistake,” tweeted Sophie RichardsonChina director at Human Rights Watch.

Rights activists have long warned that Bachelet will be blocked by Chinese guards from seeing the real picture of what is happening in the region, including reports that Uyghurs are being held in a network of detention camps and used as forced labor in Chinese factories.

Uighurs demonstrate against China outside United Nations offices during the Universal Periodic Review of China by the United Nations Human Rights Council on November 6, 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland. Credit: AFP.

“Symbolic Visit”

During her visit from May 23 to 28, she will meet with high-level government officials, academics, and representatives of civil society groups and businesses during stops in the southern city of Guangzhou and cities in Xinjiang d ‘Urumqi (in Chinese, Wulumuqi) and Kashgar (Kashi), the UN said last week.

“We are deeply disappointed to learn that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, will not be investigating the genocide against the Uyghur people in East Turkestan, but will instead make a symbolic visit as requested. China,” said Dolkun Isa, president of World Uyghur. Congress (WUC). East Turkestan is the Uyghur’s preferred name for Xinjiang.

“We have repeatedly warned High Commissioner Bachelet that such a visit would be very damaging to the credibility of the UN and would play into the hands of the Chinese government to manipulate this trip to whitewash the genocide,” said Isa, based in France. Germany, to FRG.

China angrily rejects all claims of genocide and forced labor as politically motivated attacks on its security and development policies in the vast western region. Beijing has called for a “friendly” visit from Bachelet.

Uyghurs have been pushing for the release of a report on the rights situation in Xinjiang by OHCHR, Bachelet’s office in Geneva, which has been delayed since September.

Ordinary Chinese have also urged the US rights chief to take up the cases of the imprisoned relatives.

The mother of a man jailed and allegedly tortured after someone posted a photo of ruling CCP leader Xi Jinping’s daughter on a website he ran says she wrote to Bachelet, calling on him to question authorities in the southern province of Guangdong about his case.

“I heard that Ms. Bachelet was going to Guangzhou this week, and the miscarriage of justice involving [my son] Niu Tengyu and 24 other young people also took place here in Guangdong,” Niu’s mother Coco told RFA. “I hope Ms. Bachelet can call on the authorities in Guangdong to reverse these miscarriages of justice and release Niu Tengyu, along with all the other young people. people.”

“I hope she will raise this matter with the country’s leaders and urge Guangdong to right this wrong,” she said.

Beijing-based human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng tweeted that he was eager to brief him on the human rights situation in China, although he is highly unlikely. have access to it.

Fellow human rights lawyer Wang Yu called on Bachelet to meet with some of China’s human rights lawyers and investigate imprisoned lawyers Li Yuhan, Chang Weiping, Ding Jiaxi and Qin Yongpei.

Control the narrative

Pema Dolma, London-based campaign manager of activist group Students for Free Tibet, however, said the lack of transparency made the whole visit suspicious.

“If there is any indication that this visit is subject to restrictions [by the Chinese government]will the High Commissioner end her visit immediately?” she said. “I think it is safe to say that the answer is no.”

Bachelet traveled this week despite calls from 220 human rights organizations, which called on her in a joint statement earlier this month to cancel her trip. The statement received no response.

“Having an opaque visit to China and writing a report that highlights the concerns of the Chinese government rather than those of civil society is actually part of what Xi Jinping wants,” Pema Dolma said.[He wants] be able to control the human rights narrative. »

Bachelet also comes just before the politically sensitive anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, a foreign-based rights group has said.

“Your trip takes place on the eve of the 33rd anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, an act of horrific state violence against peaceful protesters, for which there was no accountability, and which the Chinese Communist Party – by censorship, threats and jail — is determined to bury, in an ongoing campaign of ‘forced amnesia,'” the Chinese Human Rights Defenders Group (CHRD) said in an open letter before Bachelet’s journey.

“We ask that you inquire about the fate of the Tiananmen Mothers, a group of mothers and relatives of victims, formed shortly after June 41989, who … seek accountability for the ‘disappearance’ of their sons and daughters,” he added.

He said Bachelet’s visit sparked fears among rights activists that it would be “carefully managed and choreographed by the Chinese government so that you only see and hear what the government wants you to see and hear. “.

“We are concerned that … you will have no unfettered access to victims, eyewitnesses, independent members of civil society, and that your voices will be silenced and your opinions distorted by the Chinese government if and when you speak out about the lack of meaningful and unfettered access,” the letter reads.

He called on Bachelet to stand with the Tiananmen mothers and their “disappeared” children, and to defend all those who are still “disappeared” in the Uyghur and Tibetan regions, Hong Kong and the rest of China.

The six-day visit “can only scratch the surface of the fight against crimes against humanity in Xinjiang”, Amnesty’s Callamard said.

“But at the very least, Bachelet’s visit must focus on the victims of Chinese repression: the Uyghurs and other Muslims who have been targeted and the many families abroad who are tormented by not knowing where their loved ones are. detained and how to seek justice, truth and reparation.”

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie and Paul Eckert.


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