The UN human rights chief began a six-day visit to China on Monday to cover the remote Xinjiang region, offering fear to the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Michelle Bachelet’s visit is the first by a top UN official in nearly two decades, and Beijing has been accused of persecuting Muslims in far-western Xinjiang.
The ruling Communist Party has been accused of detaining more than a million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in a year-long security crackdown that the United States has called “genocide.”
China vehemently denies the allegations and calls them “lies of the century.”
“I look forward to exchanging views with different people during my visit. I will discuss some very important and sensitive issues. I hope this will help us build confidence,” Bachelet said during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Guangzhou.
According to diplomatic sources in Beijing, Bachelet held a virtual meeting on Monday with the heads of about 70 diplomatic missions in China, who said they had been assured of access to detention centers and human rights defenders.
Over the weekend, he is scheduled to travel to the southern cities of Xinjiang, Urumqi and Kashgar, as well as Guangzhou.
Welcoming Bachelet, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said his visit had been in a “closed loop” due to the epidemic and that both sides had agreed not to pursue a visit by journalists.
He is expected to meet with Chinese leaders and “have extensive exchanges with people from different sectors,” Wang said without elaborating.
UN officials have been blocking talks with the Chinese government since 2018 to secure “uninterrupted, meaningful access” to Xinjiang.
But fears of a whitewash have spread to give the region a glimpse of tightly regulated life, which China says has calmed down with “re-education centers” and improved through an economic revival drive.
Access or cover up?
The United States has said in a statement that it was “deeply concerned” about the situation, saying it was “deeply concerned” that Bachelet had failed to secure a guarantee of what he would see.
“We do not expect the PRC to provide the necessary access to conduct a complete, impartial assessment of the human rights environment in Xinjiang,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
Instead of a thorough investigation into the alleged abuse, rights lawyers also fear that Bachelet has savings for a stage-directed tour.
Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Calamard said her visit would be “an ongoing battle against the Chinese government’s efforts to cover up the truth.”
“The United Nations must take steps to curb this and prevent it from being used to support shameless propaganda.”
The last such visit came in 2005 when Beijing sought to soften its global image by hosting the 2008 Olympic Games – but much has changed since then.
President Xi Jinping has become the most authoritarian Chinese leader in a generation and is running for an unprecedented third term later this year.
In addition to mass arrests, Chinese authorities have been campaigning for forced labor, forced disinfection and the destruction of Uyghur cultural heritage in Xinjiang, researchers and campaigners say.
Chinese state media has so far given silent coverage of the visit.
However, the state news agency Xinhua praised the country’s “significant achievements in respecting and protecting human rights” in an article on Sunday.
The English-language arm of China’s state broadcaster – CGTN – has a more controversial article calling the West a “false Xinjiang description” and questioning the basis of the allegations.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)