UN’s Bachelet says China trip not for a probe, faces criticism

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UN’s Bachelet says China trip not for a probe, faces criticism

Rights bodies criticise the rights chief for failing to hold the Chinese government accountable for rights abuse against Uighur Muslims.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet made the first visit by a UN high commissioner for human rights to China in 17 years [File: Denis Balibouse/Reuters]

Published On 28 May 202228 May 2022

The UN human rights chief has defended her China trip as she was accused of failing to hold Beijing accountable for its alleged human rights abuses, saying she raised concerns with officials about the treatment of Uighur Muslims in the country.

Michelle Bachelet said on Saturday her contentious six-day visit to China, including Xinjiang province, was “not an investigation” but insisted she spoke with “candour” during her official meetings. The US, which has accused China of committing “genocide” against Uighur Muslims in western Xinjiang province, had termed Bachelet’s trip “a mistake”.

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The top UN human rights official said the visit will pave the way for more regular interactions to support China in fulfilling its obligations under international human rights law.

“It provides an opportunity for me to better understand the situation in China, but also for the authorities in China to better understand our concerns and to potentially rethink policies that we believe may impact negatively on human rights,” she said in a video news conference on the final day of her trip.

Bachelet said China must not use legitimate concerns about “terrorism” to justify human rights abuses.
It’s uncertain whether China’s governing Communist Party, which has vehemently denied all reports of human rights violations and genocide in Xinjiang, would change its policies.

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Anger among HR community

Sophie Richardson from Human Rights Watch said that Bachelet’s visit seemed to be about “making nice with the Chinese government” rather than holding it accountable for some of the worst human rights violations it has committed under international law.

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