September 28, 2022

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UN human rights chief cannot speak to detained Uyghurs or their families while visiting Xinjiang | Xinjiang

Michelle Bachelet said she was unable to speak to any of the detained Uyghurs or their families during her controversial visit to Xinjiang, and was accompanied by government officials while in the region.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who announced this week She will not seek another termbefore a session of the 50th Human Rights Council in Geneva, said there are restrictions on her visit to the region in China, where the authorities have been accused of crimes against humanity and genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.

Bachelet and a team from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights spent six days in Guangdong and Xinjiang visiting activists and some Western governments. It was described as a propaganda coup by the Chinese government.

In a statement on Wednesday, Bachelet said she was able to meet with members of civil society organizations without government oversight, but in a statement Xinjiang He was “accompanied by government officials throughout the visit.”

At a press conference in Guangdong on the last day of her tour, Bachelet was asked directly by the Guardian about her ability to speak to Uyghur civilians and other people “unsupervised” and have free and open discussions about their experiences.

At the time Bachelet said they weren’t able to meet everyone because of the Covid bubble “but with the people we were able to talk to, it was in an unsupervised way.”

On Wednesday, she reiterated the “restrictions” on the visit. “As that would be true for any high-level visit that is not by definition an investigative mission, there were special limitations given the prevalent Covid restrictions,” she said.

I visited Kashgar Prison as well as the formerly called VETC Prison [vocational education and training centre]Where I spoke to the authorities. I couldn’t talk to anyone Uyghur Currently detained or their families during the visit. However, in anticipation, I met some former detainees who are now outside the country and with families who had lost contact with their loved ones prior to my visit.”

After her visit, Bachelet was criticized by rights groups, some Western governments, and Uyghur activists for failing to strongly condemn the Chinese government’s abuses in Xinjiang, and for using terms favored by the government in its press conference, including the “Vocational Education and Training Center”. VETCs is the government’s name for a network of facilities in which an estimated one million Uyghurs have been detained and allegedly subjected to human rights abuses.

Activists including Uyghur human rights lawyer Rehan Asat told media that authorities prevented their families in Xinjiang from leaving their homes during Bachelet’s visit. Asat’s brother was arrested in Xinjiang Since his disappearance in 2016.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has come under pressure To release a long-awaited report on the human rights situation in China, which was completed in late 2021.

On Wednesday during a separate letter, Bachelet said her office is working on updates to its assessment of the situation in Xinjiang which will be shared with the Chinese government before they are published.

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