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Pressure grows on UN rights chief ahead of her May 23-28 visit to China, Xinjiang

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(TibetanReview.net, May21’22) – Although much sought and long looked forward to, the visit to China from May 23 to 28 of UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet is seen as controversial both as regards its credibility and her own alleged silence on atrocities in Xinjiang and Tibet. While Xinjiang is on her itinerary, Tibet has not been reported as a part of her destination or interest.

These fears were expressed by the US State Department on May 20 which felt “deeply concerned” that China will restrict access during the visit.

The first visit to China by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights since Louise Arbour in 2005 was announced by China’s foreign ministry after discussions between the two sides and the visit of an advance team from Bachelet’s office.

“We’re deeply concerned about the upcoming visit,” Reuters May 21 quoted US State Department spokesman Ned Price as saying at a press briefing, adding that the United States had “no expectation that the PRC (People’s Republic of China) will grant the necessary access required to conduct a complete, unmanipulated assessment of the human rights environment in Xinjiang.”

Price has said the United States had made its concerns known to China and to Bachelet, who for months had not heeded repeated calls by the United States and other countries to release a report by her staff on the situation in Xinjiang.

“The High Commissioner’s continued silence in the face of indisputable evidence of atrocities in Xinjiang and other human rights violations and abuses throughout the PRC – it is deeply concerning, particularly as she is and should be the leading … voice on human rights,” Price has said.

During her visit, Bachelet will meet “a number of high-level officials at the national and local levels”, the AFP May 21 quoted her office as saying, adding that she would “also meet with civil society organisations, business representatives, academics, and deliver a lecture to students at Guangzhou University.”

Bachelet, who will not need to quarantine like her advance team, is not travelling to Beijing due to Covid restrictions but will go to Kashgar and Urumqi in Xinjiang, the report said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said on May 20 that it and other rights groups had expressed concerns that the Chinese government would “manipulate the visit as a public relations stunt”.

Bachelet herself has been demanding unfettered access to all regions of China since she took office in 2018 for a four-years term. However, the terms of her upcoming visit have not been disclosed. China has kept making it clear that only a friendly visit would be allowed, not any investigation.

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