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Uyghur activists skeptical as UN rights chief continues to seek Xinjiang visit

March 2, 2022

(, Mar02’22) – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has on Feb 28 reiterated his call on China to allow a credible visit by the world body’s rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, including to Xinjiang. The day also saw Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, saying over video that she would be welcome to visit the Xinjiang region in the near future. Both the remarks were made in speeches on the first day of the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva. But Uyghur rights activists are skeptical both about China and Bachelet.

Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, is seeking a visit to investigate numerous reports of widespread, systemic and even genocidal human rights abuses in Xinjiang. However, China has made it clear that a goodwill visit is all that the UN right chief should hope for.

“We welcome people from all over the world who harbour no bias to come to Xinjiang for exchanges,” Reuters Feb 28 quoted Wang as saying in his speech. “China also welcomes the visit by High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to China, including a trip to Xinjiang in the near future.”

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. (Photo courtesy: UN)

Bachelet has long sought access to investigate alleged abuses against ethnic Uyghurs, with her office saying last month that conversations for a possible trip were underway.

Referring to these conversations, Guterres has said, “I recently returned from a visit to China, where I expressed my expectation that the current discussions will allow for a credible visit by the high commissioner to China, including Xinjiang Autonomous Region.”

But Wang’s speech made it clear that no such visit could be allowed. “The so-called genocide, forced labor and religious repression, are lies that are completely fabricated,” Mar 1 quoted him as saying.

Bachelet is scheduled to update the council on Mar 7 on her attempts to ascertain the situation in Xinjiang, a spokesperson from her office told the Voice of America (VOA).

Meanwhile Uyghur rights activists have expressed skepticism both about China’s intention and the depth of Bachelet’s commitment and sincerity.

“China has continued to play games to intentionally delay a meaningful visit by the high commissioner since 2019. Only an unconditional and unfettered visit to all the concentration camps, forced labor camps, prisons, survivors and victims of Uyghur families in East Turkestan by the high commissioner is meaningful and credible,” Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), a Munich-based Uyghur rights activist group, has said, using the name for Xinjiang preferred by the Uyghur people.

Uyghur activist Dolkun Isa of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC). (Photo courtesy:

Besides, Uyghur rights groups doubt the situation in Xinjiang would change, even if UN officials are allowed to visit.

And, in any case, hakim Idris, the executive director for the Washington-based Center for Uyghur Studies, has told VOA that Bachelet had not pressed the Uyghur human rights situation forcefully enough since coming to office in Sep 2018. He has cited sources as saying she had disregarded documents and reports detailing the situation in China.

While she says something about the Uyghurs’ dire human rights situation every year, “Bachelet had been careful not to anger China, that’s why she has been delaying this urgent report,” Idris has said, referring to a long overdue report Bachelet office’s again put off from releasing before or during the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022 on China’s request.


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