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China to allow Xinjiang visit by UN rights chief, subject to conditions

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(TibetanReview.net, Jan28’22) – China has agreed to host a visit to Xinjiang by UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet “in the first half of this year after the Beijing Winter Olympics”, reported the scmp.com Jan 27, citing “people familiar with the situation.” However, a visit may still not materialize since it is subject to difficult conditions and given past broken promises by China to her predecessors.

The question is whether Bachelet could agree to undertake what appears to be meant, from China’s perspective, to be only a goodwill visit, which would only appear to condone rather than investigate what is seen by many to be a genocidal situation in Xinjiang.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner has been negotiating with Beijing since Sep 2018 for a visit to Xinjiang, where some 1 million Uyghurs are alleged to have been held in mass detention camps, the report noted.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. (Photo courtesy: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

China is reported to have approved a visit to the region sometime after the Games, which open on Feb 4, on the prerequisite that the trip should be “friendly” in nature and not framed as an investigation.

The approval finally for a visit also has a Beijing Winter Olympics context, for China has insisted that Bachelet’s office hold off on publishing a report into Xinjiang ahead of the Games, as requested by the United States.

China’s assent for a visit, which appears to be tentative at best, is said to have followed recent rounds of discussions with Bachelet and the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

“But China has also said the bottom line is that the UNHCR should not publish the Xinjiang report,” the report quoted an unnamed source as saying.

The report cited Rupert Colville, a spokesman for Bachelet, as having said in Dec 2021 that the office hoped to publish its report “in the coming weeks”.

This followed a remark by the UN human rights office in September that it was finalising its assessment of the situation in Xinjiang.

China has made clear that “it wants to define the trip as a friendly visit instead of an investigation with the presumption of guilt,” the report quoted the unnamed source as saying.

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