UN rights chief targeting 2021 visit to Xinjiang

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 22 Jun 2021

The top UN human rights official said yesterday that she hoped to agree to terms for a visit this year to China, including its Xinjiang region, to look into reports of serious violations against Muslim Uygurs.

It was the first time that Michelle Bachelet had publicly suggested a timeline for the visit, which her office has been negotiating the terms of since September 2018.

Bachelet is under pressure from Western states to secure unfettered access to Xinjiang, where activists say more than 1 million Uygurs and other Turkic Muslims have been held in camps, some of them mistreated or subject to forced labor. Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training facilities to combat religious extremism.

"I continue to discuss with China modalities for a visit ... and hope this can be achieved this year, particularly as reports of serious human rights violations continue to emerge," Bachelet said.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued reports this year documenting practices against Xinjiang Uygurs that they said could meet criteria for crimes against humanity.

Bachelet also said that the national security law imposed in Hong Kong a year ago had a "chilling impact." She said 107 people had been arrested under the law, including 57 formally charged.

"This will be an important test of independence for Hong Kong's judiciary in its willingness to uphold ... the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," she said.

Government officials in Beijing and Hong Kong say the security law is needed to avert threats, and that the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong people are protected. Critics say it is for crushing dissent.

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