Bachelet’s trip was “used” by China to whitewash abuses against minorities, according to organizations

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet listens to a video conference speech by Chinese Vice Minister of Public Security Du Hangwei on May 24, 2022 in Guangzhou. afp_tickers

This content was published on May 27, 2022 – 13:02


China’s propaganda machine “used” the visit of the UN High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, organizations and activists estimated this Friday, considering that the trip served to whitewash the abuses committed by Beijing against minorities in the Xinjiang region.

It is “very clear” that China used his visit to “push its own narrative and defend its poor record on human rights,” said Alkan Akad of Amnesty International China.

The goal was “to show the world that China can bend a top human rights official to its will,” said Maya Wang, Human Rights Watch’s China researcher.

Bachelet’s long-planned trip took her to the country’s remote west, Xinjiang, where Beijing is accused of holding a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in detention centers, sterilizing women and forcing these citizens to perform forced labour.

The United States and parliaments of other Western countries have denounced a “genocide”, accusations vehemently denied by China, which ensures that they are vocational training centers to keep the population away from separatism and extreme Islamism.

– A showcase” –

Bachelet arrived in China closely watched by human rights groups, who considered that her trip would be part of an elaborate choreography of the Communist Party, which included a conversation with President Xi Jinping, later broadcast in the public media as support for the idea Chinese human rights.

Bachelet will give a press conference on Saturday, at the end of her trip, in which she will surely be questioned about the access she has had to the Uyghurs and to the detention centers in Xinjiang, in what will be her last chance during her stay in China to mention allegations of abuse.

Uyghur activist Rahima Mahmut, who lives in London, called the visit a “showcase”.

“It is not the neutral, independent and unrestricted investigation that we had been promised,” he told AFP.

On the contrary, Beijing wanted to obtain a “carte blanche to continue exercising repression, surveillance, torture and genocide against communities like mine,” he added.

Bachelet’s visit to Xinjiang is taking place for now in the midst of total discretion. The Chinese authorities, hiding behind the outbreak of coronavirus in the country, created a health bubble that keeps the High Commissioner away from the foreign press.

Neither have precise details been given about which places and facilities Bachelet has been able to visit.

– Speak up or leave –

The person in charge has been in Xinjiang since Tuesday and her collaborators affirmed that she was going to visit the cities of Urumqi, the regional capital, and Kashgar.

The state media spread hollow information and extolled the positive meetings with Xi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Specifically, they stated that Bachelet had “admired China’s efforts and achievements in the field of human rights” during her meeting, by videoconference, with Xi.

A Bachelet spokesperson did not confirm the accuracy of these claims to AFP and there was subsequently a vague and confusing denial from the UN about these reports published by the Chinese media.

Uyghur activist Abduweli Ayup, who lives in Norway, said he was “disappointed” that Bachelet had allowed Beijing to “misunderstand” his words.

“They have used it for their propaganda,” he told AFP.

Although it is not yet known what Bachelet was able to see in Xinjiang, images of her with a book of Xi’s comments on human rights were released during her visit to this region.

China rejects any criticism of its policies in this region and describes attempts to meddle in the reality of Xinjiang as interference.

The Chinese government has denied that Bachelet’s trip is an investigation, instead calling it an opportunity to “clarify misinformation.”

It is the first trip to China by a top UN human rights official in 17 years and is the result of tough negotiations over the limits of this visit.

It is “illusory” to think that China would not use this visit to “present its own version of events,” said Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute.

Bachelet “has to have the political courage and integrity to speak out because her words and her visit are being distorted,” she said.

And “if she’s not ready or able to do it, then she shouldn’t have come,” he added.