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Over 220 NGOs urge UN rights chief to postpone her ill-prepared China trip

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(TibetanReview.net, May06’22) – A coalition of more than 220 NGOs from a number of countries, led by Tibetan, Uyghur, Hong Kong, Southern Mongolian and Chinese democracy groups, have on May 5 called on the UN’s human rights chief to postponed her trip to China, which is expected to take place later this month. They have expressed concern that she is ill-prepared for the trip and China will not allow her free and independent access while exploiting it for propaganda purposes.

Recent media reports have suggested that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Michelle Bachelet, will visit China, with a trip to Xinjiang, in less than two weeks. Her advance team had arrived there on Apr 25.

Issuing a joint-statement, they have called for guarantees from her office as well as China on certain issues before undertaking any such trip. These included transparency about the measures taken to date to ensure unfettered access to all areas including Tibet, East Turkistan (Chinese: Xinjiang), Southern Mongolia and Hong Kong. They have called for assurances of secure meetings with independent civil society organisations, human rights defenders and survivors of China’s human rights abuses including groups in the diaspora, in advance of the visit. And they have also called for the release of the long-delayed Bachelet’s office report on serious human rights violations in East Turkistan.

The groups have expressed concern that proceeding with the visit under ill-negotiated terms with China and without adequate briefing from those affected by China’s human rights violations would risk jeopardizing a rare opportunity for independent human rights monitoring and grant Beijing yet another opportunity to further whitewash its repression against Tibetans, Uyghurs, Hong Kongers, Southern Mongolians, Chinese dissidents and others.

The coalition has also referred to a series of failings on Bachelet’s part before undertaking her trip. These included not meeting with any of the affected communities despite multiple requests or with wider civil society organizations for specific briefings on Beijing’s crackdown.

In particular, they have accused her of having ignored all offers to meet with survivors from the Uyghur camps, Tibetan former political prisoners or Chinese democracy activists linked to the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

They have questioned her silence on the unprecedented statement by over 50 UN experts calling for “urgent” and “decisive measures” to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of those living under Chinese rule.

And they have noted with concern her failure to raise any concern about the situation in occupied Tibet, which has not been mentioned as a location for her planned trip, despite being ranked as the least free place in the world for the second year in a row. So also Hong Kong and Southern Mongolia, though both had witnessed historic protests and subsequent crackdowns on human rights and freedom in the past two years.

“There is no doubt that the United Nations urgently needs to investigate human rights abuses against Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers and Chinese human rights defenders,” Kai Mueller, Executive Director of International Campaign for Tibet Germany has said. “This includes such investigative trips by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. But such trips must not take place at any price if there is a significant risk that the government involved will prevent free and independent access in the country and exploit the trip for propaganda purposes.”

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