UN rights chief to visit China next week, travel to Xinjiang

The UN human rights Michelle Bachelet’s six-day China visit -- the first since 2005 -- beginning Monday will include a trip to the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang, where China has been accused of human rights violations
The UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet will begin her long-anticipated visit to China on May 23, including to the Xinjiang region where authorities stand accused of widespread violations. (AFP)
The UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet will begin her long-anticipated visit to China on May 23, including to the Xinjiang region where authorities stand accused of widespread violations. (AFP)
Updated on May 20, 2022 10:59 PM IST
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The UN human rights Michelle Bachelet’s six-day China visit -- the first since 2005 -- beginning Monday will include a trip to the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang, where China has been accused of human rights violations.

Bachelet will be in China between May 23 and 28 during which she will visit Urumqi and Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, and the southern province of Guangzhou.

Bachelet’s visit, especially her time in Xinjiang, will be under close scrutiny given that the Chinese government has been accused of large-scale human rights violation against the Uighur Muslim community in the remote region.

The allegations include incarceration of around one million people from minority Muslim communities in detention camps, forced labour in manufacturing units of the resource-rich region, forced abortions, and mass indoctrination.

China has consistently denied the allegations, calling it a smear campaign carried out by western countries and the government has said the camps are “vocational training institutes”.

Rights groups have said Bachelet’s visit will be a test of credibility of the UN’s human rights office.

“The planned visit to China by the United Nations high commissioner for human rights should meet minimum standards to be considered credible,” Human Rights Watch and 59 other groups said in a statement in April.

The groups urged Bachelet to take several steps to prevent the Chinese government from manipulating the visit.

Bachelet’s visit was announced both by the Chinese foreign ministry and her office on Friday.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in a brief statement that Bachelet would visit from Monday to Saturday at the invitation of the Chinese government without giving details.

“During her visit, the High Commissioner is due to meet with a number of high-level officials at the national and local levels. The High Commissioner will also meet with civil society organisations, business representatives, academics, and deliver a lecture to students at Guangzhou University. Bachelet will visit Guangzhou, Kashgar and Urumqi,” a statement from her office said.

Bachelet is expected to issue a statement and is scheduled to hold a press conference at the end of her visit on May 28.

An advance team of five has been in China since April 25 to prepare for her visit, the statement added.

“The team initially spent time in Guangzhou, where they conducted virtual meetings while in quarantine in line with Covid-19 travel requirements. Following quarantine, the team undertook meetings and visits in Guangzhou before travelling to the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the statement said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sutirtho Patranobis has been in Beijing since 2012, as Hindustan Times’ China correspondent. He was previously posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he covered the final phase of the civil war and its aftermath. Patranobis covered several beats including health and national politics in Delhi before being posted abroad.

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