US ‘concerned’ Over UN Rights Chief’s China Visit As She Urges Beijing To Review Policies

The United States “remains concerned” about United Nations (UN) human rights chief Michelle Bachelet which Washington believes can be used by China for its propaganda purposes. Bachelet, whose trip to China triggered criticism from the Western nations and rights groups, called on Beijing to review its counter-terrorism policies to ensure that they comply with the international human rights standards.

UN human rights chief, according to a CNN report, has reiterated that her six-day trip, which ended on Saturday and included a visit to the western region of Xinjiang, was not an investigation into China’s human rights policies but touted her trip as an opportunity to engage with the Communist government.

During a press briefing on Saturday, Bachelet said, “I have raised questions and concerns about the application of counter-terrorism and deradicalisation measures under broad application, particularly the impact on the rights of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities”. China continues to deny all accusations of human rights abuse ib Xinjiang.

As per the report, the UN human rights chief’s access was limited as the country arranged for her to travel in a “closed-loop” which includes isolating people within a virtual bubble to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington “remains concerned” about her China trip.

In a statement, published late on Saturday, Blinken said, “We are concerned the conditions Beijing authorities imposed on the visit did not enable a complete and independent assessment of the human rights environment in (China), including in Xinjiang, where genocide and crimes against humanity are ongoing”.

He said that the US was “further troubled” by reports Xinjiang residents were pressured not to complain about conditions in the area. Blinken added, “The High Commissioner should have been allowed confidential meetings with family members of Uyghur and other ethnic minority diaspora communities in Xinjiang who are not in detention facilities but are forbidden from travelling out of the region”.

West, rights group criticise Bachelet’s trip

Western nations and rights groups, as per the report, worry that China will use Bachelet’s trip as an endorsement of its rights access. Earlier, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price had said on Tuesday that it was “a mistake to agree to a visit under the circumstances.” It is to note here that China had initially rejected the existence of detention centres in Xinjiang but in 2018, it admitted to setting up “vocational training centres” essential to curb what it considered terrorism, separatism and religious radicalism in the region.

Bachelet has claimed that she did talk to the Chinese government about the lack of independent judicial oversight on the operation of the centres and allegations of the use of force, ill-treatment and severe restrictions on religious practice, according to the report. UN human rights chief, in the press briefing, described the “deeply worrying” detention in Hong Kong of activists, lawyers and journalists.

Image: AP