BEIJING ( Associated Press) — Allegations of human rights abuses in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region are a major issue on a visit by a top UN rights official starting Monday.
Michelle Bachelet’s visit is the first by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights since 2005, but rights groups have warned that it threatens to whitewash the ruling Communist Party of Xinjiang.
China has locked down more than a million members of its Uyghur, Kazakh and other Muslim minorities, in what critics describe as a campaign to erase their distinct cultural identity. China says it has nothing to hide and welcomes all those without political bias to visit Xinjiang and see if it will make a successful effort to restore order and ethnic unity. Describes the campaign.
Bachelet will begin her six-day tour in the southern city of Guangzhou and then travel to Kashgar and Xinjiang’s regional capital, Urumqi. Details have been tightly kept and the media, wholly controlled by the Communist Party of China, have not reported on his visit.
A key question is whether Bachelet will now be allowed into largely empty detention camps that China calls re-education centers and meets with imprisoned figures on calls for more religious, political and cultural freedoms, such as That Ilham Tohti, an economist and winner. Sakharov Prize.
China has also been accused of forced labour, forced birth control and separation of children from their parents, and watchdog group The Dui Hua Foundation says it has also been targeted for fasting or selling Islamic books for Ramadan. .
It is also unclear whether Bachelet will be able to meet with officials who have led the crackdown in Xinjiang, including former party secretary Chen Quanguo, who is now an official in Beijing.
Bachelet plans to speak with high-level national and local officials, civil society organizations, business representatives and academics, and deliver lectures to students at Guangzhou University.
Rights groups have called for more information and accountability from China over its policies in Tibet and Inner Mongolia that restrict minority cultural rights. A crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong has prompted the US and others to impose sanctions on local and Chinese central government officials.
Amnesty International said Bachelet should “address crimes against humanity and blatant human rights violations” during her visit.
Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard said: “Michelle Bachelet’s visit to Xinjiang is an important opportunity to address human rights violations in the region, but it will also be an ongoing fight against the Chinese government’s efforts to hide the truth.” ” a statement.
“The United Nations must act against this and openly oppose being used to support propaganda,” Callamard said.
Bachelet’s visit comes ahead of the long-awaited release of a report on alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang. About 200 rights groups have urged Bachelet to release his report, which diplomats have said has been ready for months – or very close to it.
The US government has declared that Beijing’s policies against Uighurs are genocide and crimes against humanity. The legislatures of Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada have done the same.
China denies the allegations and says its policies were meant to distract those affected by jihadist propaganda after years of violent outbursts against Chinese rule in the region.