UN rights chief begins China trip to visit Uyghur Muslim region

Beijing, May 23 (EFE).- United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet arrived in China on Monday for a trip that will take her to the western Xinjiang region to investigate the alleged detention of 1.8 million minority Uyghurs and their abuses by the government in mass camps.

Chinese leaders and heads of relevant departments would meet with Bachelet during her visit, said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin.

Bachelet will visit south Guangdong province and northwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, said the spokesperson.

“China hopes that Bachelet’s visit will promote exchanges and cooperation between the two sides and play an active role in advancing the international cause of human rights,” Wang told a daily news briefing.

Rights groups have relentlessly alleged that the Chinese government had arbitrarily detained 1.8 million Uyghurs and others in the volatile region.

The predominantly Muslim Turkic ethnic minority number roughly 13 million in Xinjiang but tens of thousands have gone into exile in the last decade.

China has dismissed the allegations, saying it was training the Uyghurs in re-education camps.

According to the Chinese government, Xinjiang, neighboring Central Asia, has seen terrorist activities in the last few decades that prompted President Xi Jinping to implement a solid security plan.

The plan includes the creation of “re-education camps,” which, the government says, are “vocational training centers” to educate people influenced by religious extremism.

But rights organizations say these are concentration camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the region.

They allege that the government was committing crimes against humanity, including torture, family separations, and cultural persecution in Xinjiang.

Bachelet had first indicated her intent to report on the alleged rights abuses across Xinjiang, the Uyghur region, in 2018.

Since then, she has offered procedural updates on the status of negotiations to gain meaningful access to the region.

In September 2021, Bachelet confirmed that her office was finalizing its assessment of the available information on allegations of serious human rights violations in Xinjiang to make it public.

Her office had gathered the information for nearly four years, and her spokesperson promised in December that the findings would be released within weeks.

But Bachelet did not mention the long-awaited report on Uyghurs in her speech.

Human rights violations by the Chinese government led to a United States-led diplomatic boycott of the recent Winter Olympics in Beijing by several countries.

Nearly 200 organizations expressed fears that Bachelet would face restrictions since the Chinese government would not let her look into the rights violations in Xinjiang and other areas.

The organizations demanded an immediate release of the UNHRC report on the alleged Chinese rights abuses.

Organizations like Human Rights Watch have expressed fears that the Chinese government would use Bachelet’s visit as a “publicity stunt,” warning that the credibility of the former Chilean president “is at stake”. EFE jco-ssk

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