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UN right chief not seeking a second term, denies it was due to criticisms of her China visit

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(TibetanReview.net, Jun14’22) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Michelle Bachelet, has said Jun 13 that she will not seek a new four-year term, but made it clear that the recent strong criticisms of her response to China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Chinese ruled East Turkestan (Xinjiang) had nothing to do with this decision. She has also been criticized for being silent on the situation in Tibet over the past nearly four years of being on the job.

Last week, Human Rights Watch relayed a statement from over 230 groups representing people from Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and other places in the People’s Republic of China calling on Bachelet to step down. In it, the groups accused her of having “whitewashed the Chinese government’s human rights atrocities” during her May 23-28 visit to East Turkestan (Xinjiang) and China.

Bachelet used her opening address to the summer session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva to announce that it would be her last at the UN’s top human rights body.

“I am not a young woman anymore and after a long and rich career, I want to go back to my country, to my family,” the AP Jun 13 quoted Bachelet, 70, who served two terms as Chile’s president, as saying at a brief news conference.

She has explained that she had told the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York two months ago of her decision. Her term ends on Aug 31.

Guterres, who chooses the UN rights chief, has affirmed his support for Bachelet after she faced criticism from the United States and others for not doing enough to raise concerns about or look into rights abuses in Xinjiang during her trip, when she spoke with President Xi Jinping and other top officials.

“In all she has done, Michelle Bachelet lives and breathes human rights. She has moved the needle in an extremely challenging political context — and she has made a profound difference for people around the globe,” Guterres has said.

Critics have said she did not speak out enough about the Uyghurs and during her visit and didn’t press Chinese authorities enough. Bachelet had insisted that her trip was not an “investigation” while emphasizing that she had opened a channel of communication with top Chinese authorities.

In her Jun 13 speech, Bachelet provided new details about her conversations with Chinese authorities, saying she raised concerns about arbitrary detentions and “patterns of abuse” against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

On her office’s long-delayed report on the rights situation in Xinjiang — where some critics say Uyghurs have been subject to genocide — was being “updated” and will be shared with Beijing authorities “for factual comments” before it is published before Aug 31.

China claimed that Bachelet’s media briefing after her visit refuted the widespread allegations that it was committing genocide and other crimes against humanity in East Turkestan.

In her statement at the end of her visit, Bachelet did say that she had spoken to the Chinese leadership about the need to protect the Tibetan people’s linguistic and religious rights.

“On the Tibet Autonomous Region, it is important the linguistic, religious and cultural identity of Tibetans be protected, and that Tibetan people are allowed to participate fully and freely in decisions about their religious life and for dialogue to take place,” she said in her statement from Guangzhou on May 28.

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