UN human rights official hopes to reach consensus on visit to China’s Xinjiang this year

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Monday (June 21) that she hopes to reach a consensus with the Chinese government on the terms of a visit to China this year, including its Xinjiang region, to investigate reports of serious abuses against Uighur Muslims.

Reuters reports that this is the first time Bachelet has publicly indicated a timetable for her hoped-for visit to China. Her office has been in talks with Chinese authorities since September 2018 about the terms of the visit. Bachelet has come under increasing pressure from the West to be able to visit Xinjiang without restrictions.

Speaking at the opening of the UN Human Rights Council session, Bachelet said she has continued discussions with China on the format of the visit, including meaningful access to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and hopes to make it happen this year, especially as reports of serious human rights abuses there continue to emerge, the report said.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released reports this year documenting China’s actions against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, saying they may constitute Crimes Against Humanity. Other studies by international experts have confirmed the existence of severe forced labor in Xinjiang.

In recent years, the Chinese Communist Party has imposed an iron fist on Xinjiang, cracking down on what the authorities call “separatists,” conducting comprehensive electronic surveillance including facial recognition technology, and setting up checkpoints throughout the region.

UN experts, human rights groups and activists have accused China of holding at least 1 million Uighurs and other minority Muslims in “re-education camps” for brainwashing propaganda. Communist authorities initially denied the existence of the camps, but later argued that they were “vocational training centers” designed to eliminate extremist tendencies among the local population and to learn language and vocational skills.

However, many reports indicate that former “re-education camp” detainees have confirmed that they were subjected to political brainwashing and psychological torture, including being forced to renounce their Muslim faith and swear allegiance to the CCP and Xi Jinping. A large number of overseas members of the Xinjiang minority also reported that their family members or friends in Xinjiang had been forcibly detained, or that many had disappeared and their whereabouts were unknown.

China is facing growing international condemnation for its harsh treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

Bachelet also spoke about Hong Kong, saying the “Hong Kong version of the national security law” introduced in the city a year ago has had a “chilling effect” on the democratic space and media in Hong Kong, the report said. She said 107 people have been arrested under the national security law and 57 of them have been formally charged.