criticized for her visit to Xinjiang, the UN envoy Michelle Bachelet defends herself

criticized for her visit to Xinjiang, the UN envoy Michelle Bachelet defends herself

The high commissioner for human rights is in the crosshairs of human rights organizations, the United States and Uyghurs based abroad.

The UN human rights chief said in China on Saturday that her visit was “notnot an investigation“, but urged Beijing to stop the measures”arbitrarytargeting the Muslim Uyghur minority.

During an online press conference organized at the end of her stay, Michelle Bachelet also assured that she had “understoodthose who, in recent days, criticized him for his lack of criticism of the Chinese government. The 70-year-old former Chilean president also claimed to have spoken with “franchiseto the communist leaders of the current campaign in Xinjiang (northwest) in the name of anti-terrorism.

This huge Chinese territory has long been the scene of bloody attacks targeting civilians and committed, according to the authorities, by Uyghur separatists and Islamists – the main ethnic group in the region. Xinjiang, where 26 million people live, has been under draconian surveillance for several years.

“Forced labor” and “genocide”

Western studies accuse Beijing of having interned more than a million Uyghurs and members of other Muslim ethnic groups in “re-education camps“, or even to impose “forced labor” or some “forced sterilizations“. The United States refers to a “genocide“.

China denounces biased reports and speaks of “vocational training centersaimed at developing employment and eradicating extremism. She denies everythingforced sterilization“, saying only to apply the national policy of limitation of births.

Several associations for the defense of human rights and members of the diaspora accuse Beijing of having caught in the mesh of its anti-terrorist campaign a certain number of people who have not committed any crime. According to them, Uighurs would have been interned on the sole basis of supposed extremism, because of a beard that was too long, a suspicious trip abroad or religious beliefs deemed too advanced.

A “Chinese government propaganda maneuver”

Michelle Bachelet thus called on China on Saturday to stop the measures “arbitrary and indiscriminateof his counter-terrorism campaign in Xinjiang, while denouncing the “violent acts of extremism“.

Words deemed too conciliatory by the World Uyghur Congress, an organization of exiles based in Germany and considered separatist by Beijing. “If a High Commissioner for Human Rights remains silent, it is because she is failing in her duties“, he lambasted in a press release. “Quitting is the only meaningful thing she can do“. The human rights organization Amnesty International deplored the fact that Michelle Bachelet fell into a “very predictable Chinese government propaganda maneuver“.

Chinese state media reported this week that she had praised China’s progress on human rights – remarks that UN services have neither denied nor confirmed. Overall, they covered his travels to a minimum, reporting only very polite accounts of his meetings with President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Some Western countries, driven by ulterior motives, had gone to great lengths to disrupt and undermine the High Commissioner’s visit. Their scheme failed“said Ma Zhaoxu, a Chinese vice-minister of foreign affairs, on Saturday evening.

The first such visit in 17 years

Amnesty International has called on Michelle Bachelet to publish her report on Xinjiang as soon as possible, the publication of which has been repeatedly postponed, failing which “would amount to betraying the victims and their families“. Many Uighurs say they have no news of their imprisoned relatives.

This issue and others have been raised with the authorities“, assured Michelle Bachelet, adding that she had”raised many cases“. The high commissioner strongly defended her stay, claiming to have been able to have with the people she wanted to meet in Xinjiang an access “unsupervised” by the authorities. Michelle Bachelet says she met, among others, members of civil society and the leader of the Chinese Communist Party in the region.

This visit to China was the first by a high commissioner for human rights in 17 years. It follows tough negotiations between the UN and Beijing. Michelle Bachelet traveled to Xinjiang in the regional capital, Urumqi, and says she visited a prison in the city of Kashgar, where she saw prisoners in particular, describing her access as “fairly open, fairly transparent“.

The Xinjiang government, she said, assured her that the network of “vocational training centers” had been “dismantled“. Michelle Bachelet said she visited one of these old centers. Details of his visit have not been made public. The Chilean ex-president, in the name of the epidemic situation in China, was in a health bubble which kept her away from the foreign press.

SEE ALSO – Washington says it is ‘appalled’ by revelations about Uyghur crackdown

.