GENEVA – The top UN human rights official said on Tuesday that China would allow her to visit the country and check on conditions there, even in the Xinjiang regionan incredible turn after years of negotiations and being thwarted by Beijing.
If the visit in May goes as planned, official Michelle Bachelet will be the first UN high commissioner for human rights in 22 years to visit China, which has repeatedly faced criticism over its human rights policies. of this country.
The visit was not without risk to the high commissioner’s reputation. As the United Nations’ top human rights official, with a mandate to “promote and protect the enjoyment and full realization of all human rights”, Ms. Bachelet has effectively spoken out against violations in many countries but only timidly against China .
China has long faced criticism for its rough treatment of dissidents, journalists and activistsbut rights groups have said conditions have deteriorated significantly since President Xi Jinping came to power a decade ago.
Beijing has been accused of crimes against humanity in its mass incarceration of Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang – a set of policies that the US The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called genocide – and it was also burned for a repression in Hong Kong essentially stripped the region of its independence from Beijing.
China has pushed back against criticism of its actions in Xinjiang, saying its policies have been highly effective in reducing poverty in one of the country’s least developed provinces and creating into a model of good counterterrorism practice.
Ms. Bachelet told the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday that her office would send a pre-team to China next month to prepare for her visit. The Chinese ambassador to the council welcomed the proposed visit, but it is unclear why China agreed to allow Ms. Bachelet to visit the country after her predecessors disagreed on the terms or timing of the visit. visit.
For her visit to be a success, her predecessor team will face the daunting task of not only arranging itineraries and meetings with Chinese leaders, but also trying to ensure that she has You can meet anyone you want, under the conditions that ensure confidentiality for those people and the Security.
Despite accusations of abuses amounting to crimes against humanity in China, Ms. Bachelet, in her statement to the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, spoke only of her concerns about the treatment of those in need. individuals face restrictions on freedom of movement, house arrest, or imprisonment. .
Human rights groups and the government have expressed particular disappointment at Ms. Bachelet’s refusal to release a report prepared by her own office on abuses in Xinjiang. A spokeswoman said in December that the report would be released in a few weeks, but it was not yet available and a spokeswoman for the high commission was unable to say when it would be released on Tuesday. .
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Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, speaking before the Human Rights Council last week, accused China of genocide in Xinjiang and was among the foreign ministers calling for the report to be released. Amnesty International and nearly 200 other human rights groups released a letter on Tuesday similarly urging Ms. Bachelet to release the report immediately.
“One of the best ways to ensure a meaningful visit is to publish that report and make it clear that she is pursuing evidence and accountability for crimes against humanity,” said Sophie Richardson. , the China director of Human Rights Watch, said in a phone interview.
“If she goes ahead with this visit without releasing the report she says she will,” Ms Richardson said, “that really calls into question her fundamental readiness to confront with the Chinese authorities with all the evidence her office has gathered about some of the most serious human rights violations under international law. ”