UN Secretary-General: serious talks with China on human rights official’s visit to Xinjiang

As China and the West impose sanctions on each other over human rights in Xinjiang, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said Sunday that U.N. human rights officials are in “serious talks” with China about allowing U.N. officials access to Xinjiang.

In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Guterres said: “There is a serious negotiation going on between the Office of the High Commissioner (for Human Rights) and the Chinese authorities. …… I hope they will soon reach an agreement that will allow the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit China without restrictions. “

Guterres said, “China has affirmed, and reiterated to me on several occasions, that they want this visit to happen. It is important for us to give the mission unfettered and unrestricted access to the areas that the Commission on Human Rights wishes to visit.”

Reports of arbitrary detentions, abuses, sexual violence and forced labor in Xinjiang have been increasing in recent years. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said last month that a thorough and independent assessment of these reports was needed.

Bachelet said in February that talks about a visit by the UN organization had begun, but the UN side is currently unable to reach a consensus with the Chinese side.

On March 22, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union joined in imposing sanctions on four officials from the Xinjiang region suspected of involvement in the persecution of Uighurs, including a travel ban and freezing of overseas assets and transactions.

China then retaliated on Saturday (March 27) by announcing sanctions against individuals and entities in Canada and the United States, including Gayle Manchin, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Tony Perkins, vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Canadian federal Rep. Michael Chong Chong (D-Calif.) and the Canadian House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights, banned the sanctioned individuals from entering China and prohibited Chinese citizens from trading and interacting with them.

U.S. and Canadian officials subject to Chinese sanctions immediately responded. Manchin, president of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, told Reuters on Saturday, “I am deeply honored that my call for attention to the genocide of religious groups and minorities in China has been recognized by Communist China.”

She added, “While I have no plans to travel to China this summer, I will not stop calling for the kind of serious violations of religious freedom that are taking place in China as long as they are taking place.”

Gail Manchin is married to the highly influential U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who represents West Virginia.

For his part, Canadian federal Rep. Michael Chong tweeted Saturday, “Living freely in democracy and the rule of law, we must make an appeal for those who cannot speak out. If this brings sanctions from China, I will wear this as a badge of honor.”