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 Xinjiang as part of 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 help China meet 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. the last day of his trip.
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It is uncertain whether the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which has vehemently denied all reports of human rights abuses and genocide in Xinjiang, would change its policy. Bachelet’s measured words, while expected, are unlikely to sit well with activists and governments like the United States, which have criticized his decision to visit Xinjiang.
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 Uighurs 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 the program relied on police to determine “extremist tendencies” and allegations of use of force in centers and unduly harsh restrictions on religious practice.
“It is essential that counterterrorism responses do not lead to human rights violations,” she said. “The application of relevant laws and policies and of any mandatory measures…should be subject to independent judicial review with greater transparency in judicial proceedings.”
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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…highlighted the importance of children learning in their language and culture,” she said.
Prior to her trip, she said she had heard of Uyghur families living abroad who had lost contact with their loved ones. During her meetings in China, she said she raised a number of specific cases and called on authorities to take steps to provide information to families as a priority.
“To those who have sent me calls asking me to raise issues or cases with the authorities, I heard you,” she said. “Your advocacy matters.”
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.