Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday held a videoconference with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet as she visited Xinjiang during a mission overshadowed by fresh allegations of Uighur abuses and fears she is being used as a public relations tool.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been accused of detaining more than 1 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the region as part of a years-long crackdown the US and lawmakers in other Western nations have labeled a “genocide.”
China denies the allegations.
Bachelet was expected to visit the cities of Urumqi and Kashgar on a six-day tour.
The US has reiterated its view that Bachelet’s visit was a mistake after the release of thousands of leaked documents and photographs from inside the system of mass incarceration this week.
Rights advocates have voiced concern that Beijing would prevent Bachelet from conducting a thorough probe into alleged rights abuses and instead give her a stage-managed tour, but Xi defended his nation’s human rights progress during the videoconference, according to a readout from state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), which did not say whether Xinjiang was mentioned by either side.
“Human rights issues should also not be politicized, instrumentalized or treated with double standards,” CCTV quoted Xi as saying.
China has “a human rights development path that ... suits its national conditions,” he added.
CCTV reported Xi as telling Bachelet that there is no “ideal nation” on human rights.
He added that there is “no need for a ‘teacher’ who is bossy towards other countries” — an apparent reference to public criticisms of the trip by US and British officials.
According to the CCTV readout, Bachelet said the UN Human Rights Office is “willing to strengthen cooperation with the Chinese side.”
She was also reported to have said: “I admire China’s efforts and achievements in eradicating poverty, protecting human rights, and realizing economic and social development.”
In addition to mass detentions, Chinese authorities have waged a campaign of forced labor, coerced sterilization and the destruction of Uighur cultural heritage in Xinjiang, researchers and campaigners say.
As Bachelet started the trip, a leak of thousands of photos and official documents from Xinjiang claimed to shed new light on the violent methods used to enforce mass internment in the region.
Reported by a consortium of media, including the BBC and Le Monde, the Xinjiang Police Files showed top leaders in Beijing, including Xi, calling for a forceful crackdown.
The files, leaked by an anonymous source to German anthropologist Adrian Zenz, also included a 2017 internal speech by Chen Quanguo (陳全國), a former CCP secretary in Xinjiang, in which he allegedly orders guards to shoot to kill anyone who tries to escape.
US Department of State spokesman Ned Price on Tuesday said that the US was “appalled” by the latest allegations.
Britain and Germany also voiced outrage, with British Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Liz Truss calling for China to grant Bachelet “full and unfettered access to the region,” while her German counterpart urged a “transparent investigation.”
Overseas Uighurs have staged rallies pressing Bachelet to visit relatives believed to be detained in Xinjiang.
“The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights should not look away,” Human Rights Watch senior China researcher Maya Wang (王松蓮) said. “She should also demand information about the detainees from the Chinese government, have her office develop a database of all those arbitrarily detained and imprisoned, and urgently work to secure their release.”
Bachelet’s office has said she would meet with civil society organizations, business representatives and academics, and has given assurances over her access to detention centers in calls with diplomatic sources this week.
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