BEIJING (AP) — A senior U.N. human rights official said Saturday that she expressed concern to Chinese officials about the impact of widespread counterterrorism and deradicalization measures on the rights of Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim groups in China’s Xinjiang region.
Michelle Bachelet, who visited Xinjiang on a six-day trip to China, said the visit was not an investigation but an opportunity to raise concerns with senior Chinese leaders and pave the way for more regular interactions, to support China’s compliance with international human rights law.
“This gives me the opportunity to better understand the situation in China and also for the Chinese authorities to better understand our concerns and possibly reconsider policies that we believe may have a negative impact on human rights,” she said in a video news conference. before leaving China.
Bachelet’s measured rhetoric, while expected, may not please activists and governments such as the United States, which have been critical of her decision to visit Xinjiang. China’s ruling Communist Party has vehemently denied all reports of human rights abuses and genocide in Xinjiang, showing no sign of willingness to change in its statement on the visit.
The statement, issued by Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu, accused some Western countries and anti-China elements of fabricating sensational lies on the Xinjiang issue under the guise of human rights. The government took legal measures to combat violent terrorism and bring security, stability and prosperity to northwest China, the statement said.
The Chinese side pointed out that Xinjiang is not a human rights issue at all, but a major issue related to safeguarding national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity. “The people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are the big family of the Chinese nation.”
Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said Bachelet should condemn human rights abuses in Xinjiang, called on China to release arbitrarily detained people and end systemic attacks on ethnic minorities in the region.
“The High Commissioner’s visit featured a group photo with senior government officials, and Chinese state media manipulated her remarks to give the impression that she was entering directly into the Chinese government’s highly predictable propaganda campaign,” she said in a news release .
Bachelet, who is visiting China for the first time in 17 years, said she raised the issue of the lack of independent judicial oversight in a system of internment camps holding a million or more Uighurs and other ethnic minorities. Expert estimates.
China describes the camps as vocational training and education centers to combat extremism and says they have been closed. The government has never publicly stated how many passed them.
Bachelet, who visited a prison and former center in the Xinjiang city of Kashgar, noted that police rely on 15 indicators to identify “violent extremist tendencies” that could lead to detentions, allegations of the use of force and reports of unduly restrictive restrictions on religious practices.
“It is critical that the counter-terrorism response does not lead to human rights violations,” she said. “The application of laws and policies, as well as any coercive measures taken against individuals, requires independent judicial oversight and greater transparency in the judicial process. All victims must be able to seek redress.”
Bachelet called the arrests of lawyers, activists, journalists and others “deeply concerned” under Hong Kong’s national security law, noting the semi-autonomous Chinese city’s reputation as a hub for human rights and independent media in Asia.
She said it was important to protect Tibetans’ linguistic, religious and cultural identity and allow them to participate fully and freely in decisions about their religious life. “I… emphasized the importance of children learning their language and culture in their home or community setting,” she said.
Before her trip, she said she had heard of Uighur families living abroad who had lost contact with their loved ones. At the meeting in China, she said, she called on the authorities to take steps to prioritize providing information to family members.
“I hear from those who have appealed to me to raise issues or cases with the authorities,” she said. “Your advocacy is important and my visit is an opportunity to raise some specifics and concerns with the government.”
Bachelet said the United Nations and China agreed to set up a working group for follow-up discussions on a range of issues including minority rights, counter-terrorism and human rights, and legal protection.
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