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UN rights chief must seize opportunity to address rights abuses in Xinjiang: Rights group

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Beijing | May 24, 2022 8:54:10 AM IST
As the UN's long-awaited trip got underway, the rights group urged the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to address crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations when her team visits China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region this week.

"We will be discussing sensitive, important human rights issues, and I hope this visit will help us work together to advance human rights in China and globally," said UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet.

A team led by Bachelet will spend six days in China including Xinjiang, where Amnesty International has documented systematic arbitrary imprisonment, torture and persecution of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities.

"Michelle Bachelet's long-delayed visit to Xinjiang is a critical opportunity to address human rights violations in the region, but it will also be a running battle against Chinese government efforts to cover up the truth. The UN must take steps to mitigate against this and resist being used to support blatant propaganda," said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International's Secretary-General.

"Lasting six days, this visit will only be able to scratch the surface of addressing crimes against humanity in Xinjiang. But at the very least Bachelet's visit must focus on the victims of China's crackdown: the Uyghurs and other Muslims who have been targeted and the many families overseas who are tormented by not knowing where their relatives are held and how to pursue justice, truth and reparation."

Several human rights groups have repeatedly called on the Chinese authorities to allow independent UN human rights experts and other human rights monitors access to Xinjiang - a demand that is finally being granted with this brief visit by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The High Commissioner committed to speaking to key stakeholders prior to her visit. However, the UN team faces a serious challenge to ensure this visit meets their stated standard of being truly "unfettered", "meaningful" and "including unsupervised interviews", according to Amnesty International.

"Bachelet will be aware of repeated steps taken by the Chinese authorities during previous visits by UN human rights envoys to impose strict surveillance and undermine access, including by detaining identified interviewees and potential interlocutors and warning others to feign absence."

Amnesty International has also documented instances of detainees from minority groups in Xinjiang being coached for days in preparation for foreign visitors, instructed to respond to visitors' questions with pre-scripted lines on threat of punishment.

"The OHCHR must avoid becoming complicit in the Chinese government's attempts to cover up human rights violations, potentially by using the visit itself as 'proof' of their falsity," Callamard said.

"The itinerary of the visit should not be imposed by the Chinese authorities but guided by the mandate of the visit and grounded on human rights methodology, including by being victim-centered. Above all, Bachelet's team must be able to conduct an impartial assessment of the situation on the ground and be fully transparent about the details of the trip, the terms of their agreement with the government and its delivery on the ground."

Since September 2018, when the High Commissioner first sought access to Xinjiang "in light of deeply disturbing allegations of large-scale arbitrary detentions of Uighurs and other Muslim communities", numerous organizations have published further detailed and well-corroborated information on the situation. (ANI)

 
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