human rights | UN says China visit ‘was not an investigation’

(Beijing) The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Saturday in China condemned “arbitrary” measures targeting Muslims in Xinjiang, but considered the statements of activists and Uyghur defense organizations too lenient.

Posted at 8:39 pm
Updated at 12:51 PM.

Ludovic Irit and Laurie Chen
France media agency

During an online press conference organized at the end of her stay in the country, Michelle Bachelet indicated that her visit, from which the foreign press was excluded, did not constitute an “investigation”.

According to the 70-year-old former Chilean president, this six-day stay allowed her to “candidly” talk to communist leaders about the repression carried out in Xinjiang (northwest) in the name of fighting terrorism.

This Chinese region has long been the scene of bloody attacks targeting civilians and perpetrated, according to the authorities, by Uyghur separatists and Islamists – the main ethnic group in the region.

Thus, Xinjiang has been under strict surveillance for several years.

Photo by Ng Han Gwan, Associated Press archive

Uyghurs in Hotan, Xinjiang region

Western studies accuse Beijing of having detained more than one million Uyghurs and members of other Muslim ethnic groups in “re-education camps”, even by imposing “forced labor” or “forced sterilization”. The United States is talking about “genocide”.

China denounces biased reports and talks about “vocational training centers” aimed at developing job opportunities and cracking down on extremism. She denied any “forced sterilization,” saying only to enforce the national birth control policy.

Human rights associations and members of the Uyghur diaspora accuse Beijing of being involved in its anti-terror campaign network of people who have not committed any crime.


According to them, Uyghurs could have been detained solely on the basis of supposed extremism, because of a very long beard, a suspicious trip abroad, or religious beliefs considered too advanced.

Thus, Michelle Bachelet called on China on Saturday to avoid “arbitrary and indiscriminate” actions in Xinjiang, while denouncing “violent acts of extremism.”

The words were deemed too conciliatory by the World Uyghur Congress, a Germany-based organization of exiles that Beijing considers a separatist.

“If the High Commissioner for Human Rights remains silent, it is because of her failure to perform her duties,” he criticized in a press release. “Resigning is the only meaningful thing she can do.”

The human rights organization, Amnesty International, denounced the fact that MI Bachelet was caught up in a “highly anticipated propaganda maneuver by the Chinese government”.

Chinese state media reported this week that it had praised China’s progress in human rights – a statement neither denied nor confirmed by UN agencies.

In general, they covered his travels to a minimum, providing only very accurate reports on his meetings with President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

“Some Western countries, motivated by ulterior motives, have made great efforts to disrupt and undermine the High Commissioner’s visit. Their scheme has failed,” said Ma Zhaoxu, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, Saturday evening.


Amnesty International called on Michelle Bachelet to publish its report on Xinjiang as soon as possible, the publication of which has been repeatedly delayed, otherwise it “would be a betrayal of the victims and their families.”

Many Uyghurs say they have no news of their imprisoned relatives.

“This question and others have been raised with the authorities,” Michelle Bachelet confirmed, adding that they “raised a lot of issues.”

The High Commissioner vigorously defended her stay, claiming that she had access to the people she wanted to meet in Xinjiang “without oversight” by the authorities.

Michelle Bachelet says she has met, among others, members of civil society and the leader of the Chinese Communist Party in the region.

This visit to China was the first by a High Commissioner for Human Rights in 17 years. This comes after difficult negotiations between the United Nations and Beijing.

Michelle Bachelet traveled to Xinjiang in the regional capital, Urumqi, and said she had visited a prison in Kashgar city, where she saw prisoners in particular, and described its entry as “fairly open and somewhat transparent”.

She said the Xinjiang government assured her that the network of “vocational training centers” had been “dismantled”. Michelle Bachelet said she visited one of these ancient centers.

The details of his visit were not made public. The former Chilean president, in the name of the epidemiological situation in China, was in a health bubble that kept her away from the foreign press.

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