China finally invites UN rights chief to visit Xinjiang, but with a caveat

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. (Photo courtesy: SIRSE)

(, Feb28’20) – China has finally invited the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Xinjiang, but made it clear that this is subject to her not interfering in what China calls its internal affairs. High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet has made it clear, addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva Feb 27, that she expected unfettered access to the region where around a million, perhaps even more, mainly Uyghur Muslims were reported to have been under incarceration for their perceived religiosity.

“We will continue to request unfettered access for an advance team in preparation for this proposed visit,” Feb 27 quoted Bachelet as saying.

“We will seek to analyse in-depth the human rights situation in China, including the situation of members of the Uyghur minority,” the former President of Chile was quoted as saying.

China’s ambassador to the UN, Chen Xu, has on Feb 26, dismissed abuse allegations as “unacceptable”, claiming there had been “economic, social and human rights progress in Xinjiang”.

“We are looking forward to the visit of the High Commissioner Mrs Bachelet to China, including to Xinjiang this year, and we are working closely with her office on detailed arrangements for her visit,” he was further quoted as saying.

China never allowed Bachelet’s predecessor, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, to visit the country despite repeated requests, telling him at one time to get behind the line of all those desiring to make a visit.

Bachelet first asked Beijing in Dec 2018 for permission to carry out a fact-finding mission in Xinjiang. The UN rights chief typically only undertakes national visits provided the host government offers guarantees on certain conditions, including unfettered access to key sites and the right to speak with activists, which was why Bachelet predecessor was never invited to make a visit.

Tibet activists have for long called for a UN and other delegation visits to Tibet where at least 154 people are known to have carried out self-immolations since Feb 2009 in protest against Chinese rule. It was not clear whether Bachelet’s planned itinerary would include Tibet.


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