China sees in the visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, an opportunity to clarify misinformation about allegations of persecution of the Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang region. From that Muslim group they warned that the trip of the former Chilean president could be used as a public relations maneuver by Beijing. The United States joined the concerns and Chinese local authorities stressed that they have nothing to hide.

First visit in 17 years

The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Bachelet in the southeastern city of Guangzhou after his arrival in the Asian country as part of a six-day visit in which he plans to travel to Xinjiang. The diplomat said he hopes the authorities can clarify misinformation about alleged human rights violations against minorities such as the Uyghur in that Chinese region. This is the first visit by a UN High Commissioner to China since 2005, the foreign minister recalled in a statement. Wang stressed the historical importance of Bachelet’s visit both for the international organization and for Beijing.

The Foreign Minister lamented that some Western countries seek to interfere in what he considers “internal affairs of China.” “To advance the international cause of human rights, we must first respect each other and refrain from politicizing human rights,” he said in a statement from his office. According to that text, Bachelet spoke in favor of Beijing’s contributions in several “areas related to the development of human rights”. EBachelet’s spokesman would not confirm what was said outside of the initial comments. After the meeting, the high commissioner assured that she will discuss “some very important and delicate issues.”

“I hope this will help us build trust,” added the former Chilean president who also held telematic meetings with the heads of some 70 foreign missions in China, according to diplomatic sources, who confirmed that she gave them guarantees of their access to detention centers and defenders of freedoms. Bachelet’s office also reported on meetings with civil society organizations, business representatives, and academics.

China rejects US concerns

Bachelet’s visit was criticized by the United States, which said that China would not provide the high commissioner with the “necessary access” that would allow her to assess the human rights situation in Xinjiang. The State Department spokesman, Ned Price, pointed out that the former Chilean president maintains a continuous silence about the “irrefutable evidence of atrocities” in that region of the northwest of the Asian country.

For its part, Beijing rejected the alleged concerns expressed by the United States.. “Washington’s attempt to use the so-called ‘Xinjiang issue’ to contain China will fail miserably after the international community sees the real situation in Xinjiang,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, quoted by China’s Xinhua news agency. In this sense, he assured that both the United States and the United Kingdom “one political farce after another around the visit of the high commissioner”.

“First, they publicly pressured the high commissioner to visit China in order to conduct an alleged ‘investigation’ based on the presumption of guilt.” Wang said that later he referred to the manipulation of the visit by the same countries that encouraged Bachelet’s trip.

Exile Claims

Meanwhile, from exile, the Uyghurs demanded firmness from the High Commissioner for Human Rights. “I don’t have much hope that his visit will bring changes”, said Nursimangul Abdureshid, a Uighur based in Turkey. She in turn asked that Bachelet “visit the victims, like my family, not the scenes prepared by the Chinese government”Exiled members of this community have held demonstrations in recent weeks pressuring Bachelet to visit her relatives detained in the region.

In addition to the mass arrests, activists denounced that the Chinese authorities deployed a campaign of forced labor, sterilization of women and destruction of the Uyghur cultural heritage in Xinjiang. According to documents published by various media, including the Madrid newspaper The countrya 15-year-old girl was one of the youngest victims at the time of her arrest.

Bachelet a Xinjiang

This Tuesday, the UN human rights chief visited two cities (Urumqi and Khashgar) located in the Xinjiang region. The regional capital Urumqi, with a population of four million people, is home to a sizeable Uyghur community. The town was also the scene of ethnic clashes in 2009 and two attacks in 2014. While Khashgar, with 700,000 inhabitants, is located in the cradle of the Uyghur community in southern Xinjiang.

For their part, the local authorities of Xinjiang assured that they have nothing to hide. “It is impossible to imitate a stable and peaceful situation in Xinjiang, we don’t need to hide anything,” said Xu Guixiang, a spokesman for the regional government.

Around mid-2018, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination denounced that close to a million people from the Uyghur community could be held in “re-education camps” in Xinjiang. This complaint is a reason for international criticism against the government of Xi Jinping

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