UN rights chief urges China to rethink Uyghur policy

BEIJING (AP) — The top UN human rights official said on Saturday she had raised concerns with Chinese officials about the impact of widespread enforcement of counterterrorism measures. and de-radicalization on the rights of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim groups in China’s Xinjiang region.

Michelle Bachelet, who visited the northwest region as part of a six-day trip to China, said the visit was not a survey but a chance to have direct talks with people. senior Chinese leaders and to pave the way for more regular interactions to help China fulfill its obligations under international human rights law.

“This gives me the opportunity to better understand the situation in China, but also for the Chinese authorities to better understand our concerns and potentially rethink policies that we believe may have a negative impact on human rights” , she said during a video press conference. before leaving the country.

Bachelet’s measured words, while expected, did not satisfy activists and are unlikely to please governments like the United States, which criticized his decision to visit Xinjiang. China’s ruling Communist Party, which has vehemently denied all reports of human rights abuses and genocide in Xinjiang, showed no sign of openness to change in a government statement during the travel.

The statement, attributed to Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu, accused some Western countries and anti-China elements of fabricating sensational lies about Xinjiang under the guise of human rights. He said the government has adopted legal measures to fight violent terrorism and brought security, stability and prosperity to the northwest region of China.

“The Chinese side stressed that basically, Xinjiang is not a human rights issue at all, but a major issue regarding the maintenance of national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity,” says the press release. “All ethnic groups in Xinjiang belong to the Chinese nation family.”

Agnes Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International, said Bachelet should condemn human rights abuses in Xinjiang and call on China to release those arbitrarily detained and end systematic attacks on ethnic minorities in the region. .

“The high commissioner’s visit was characterized by photo ops with senior government officials and the manipulation of her statements by Chinese state media, leaving the impression that she walked straight into a propaganda exercise. highly predictable for the Chinese government,” Callamard said in a statement. Release.

Bachelet, making the first visit by a United Nations high commissioner for human rights to China in 17 years, said she raised the lack of independent judicial oversight for an internment camp system that has swept away a million or more Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, according to expert estimates.

China, which describes the camps as centers for vocational training and education to counter extremism, says they have been closed. The government has never said publicly how many people went through it.

Bachelet, who visited a prison and former center in the city of Kashgar, Xinjiang, noted that police relied on 15 indicators to determine “violent extremism tendencies” that could lead to detention, allegations of use of force and reports of unduly serious abuse. restrictions on religious practices.

“It is essential that counterterrorism responses do not lead to human rights violations,” she said. “The application of relevant laws and policies, as well as any mandatory measures imposed on individuals, must be subject to independent judicial review, with greater transparency of judicial proceedings. All victims should be able to claim reparation.

Bachelet called the arrest of lawyers, activists, journalists and others under Hong Kong’s national security law “deeply disturbing”, noting the semi-autonomous Chinese city’s reputation as a center for human rights and independent media in Asia.

She said that it is important to protect the linguistic, religious and cultural identity of Tibetans and that they are allowed to participate fully and freely in decisions concerning their religious life. “I have…emphasized the importance of children learning in their language and culture as part of their family or community,” she said.

Prior to his trip, Bachelet heard from Uyghur families living abroad who had lost contact with loved ones. During her meetings in China, she said she called on authorities to make it a priority to take steps to provide information to families.

“To those who have sent me calls asking me to raise issues or cases with the authorities, I heard you,” she said. “Your advocacy is important and my visit provided an opportunity to raise a number of specific situations and issues of concern with the government.”

The UN and China have agreed to set up a working group to hold follow-up discussions on a range of issues, including minority rights, counter-terrorism and human rights, and protection legal, Bachelet said.

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