The high commissioner for human rights is in the crosshairs of human rights organizations, the United States and Uyghurs based abroad. The UN human rights chief said on Saturday in China that her visit was “not an investigation”, but urged Beijing to stop “arbitrary” measures targeting the Muslim Uyghur minority. Read alsoXinjiang: the “Potemkin visit” of the UN During an online press conference organized at the end of her stay, Michelle Bachelet also assured that she had “heard” those who, in recent days, reproached her for her lack criticism of the Chinese government. The 70-year-old former Chilean president also claimed to have spoken with “candor” to communist leaders about the campaign currently being waged in Xinjiang (northwest) in the name of anti-terrorism. This huge Chinese territory has long been the scene of bloody attacks targeting civilians and committed, according to the authorities, by Uyghur separatists and Islamists – the main ethnic group in the region. Xinjiang, where 26 million people live, has been under draconian surveillance for several years. ‘Forced labour’ and ‘genocide’ Western studies accuse Beijing of having interned more than a million Uyghurs and members of other Muslim ethnic groups in ‘re-education camps’, even imposing ‘forced labour’ or “forced sterilizations”. The United States evokes a “genocide”. China denounces biased reports and speaks of “vocational training centers” intended to develop employment and eradicate extremism. She denies any “forced sterilization”, saying only to apply the national birth control policy. Read alsoUyghurs: new “Xinjiang papers” confirm Xi Jinping’s role in the repression Several human rights associations and members of the diaspora accuse Beijing of having caught in the mesh of its anti-terrorist campaign a certain number of people who have not committed any crime. According to them, Uighurs would have been interned on the sole basis of supposed extremism, because of a beard that was too long, a suspicious trip abroad or religious beliefs deemed too advanced. A “Chinese government propaganda maneuver” Michelle Bachelet called on China on Saturday to stop the “arbitrary and indiscriminate” measures of its anti-terrorist campaign in Xinjiang, while denouncing “violent acts of extremism”. Words deemed too conciliatory by the World Uyghur Congress, an organization of exiles based in Germany and considered separatist by Beijing. “If a high commissioner for human rights remains silent, it is because she is failing in her duties,” he castigated in a press release. “Resigning is the only meaningful thing she can do.” The human rights organization Amnesty International deplored the fact that Michelle Bachelet fell into a “very predictable propaganda maneuver by the Chinese government”. Read alsoUighur refugees fear being let go by Ankara Chinese state media reported this week that she had praised China’s progress on human rights – remarks that the UN services have neither denied nor confirmed . Overall, they covered his travels to a minimum, reporting only highly polished accounts of his meetings with President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. “Some Western countries, driven by ulterior motives, had gone to great lengths to disrupt and undermine the High Commissioner’s visit. Their scheme failed,” said Ma Zhaoxu, a Chinese vice-minister of foreign affairs, on Saturday evening. The first such visit in 17 years Amnesty International called on Michelle Bachelet to publish her report on Xinjiang as soon as possible, the publication of which has been repeatedly postponed, failing which it would “be tantamount to betraying the victims and their families”. Many Uighurs say they have no news of their imprisoned relatives. “This question and others have been raised with the authorities,” assured Michelle Bachelet, adding that she had “raised a lot of cases”. The high commissioner strongly defended her stay, claiming to have been able to have with the people she wanted to meet in Xinjiang an access “unsupervised” by the authorities. Michelle Bachelet says she met, among others, members of civil society and the leader of the Chinese Communist Party in the region. Read alsoUighur camps: Europe supports less and less China’s transgressions This visit to China was the first by a high commissioner for human rights in 17 years. It follows tough negotiations between the UN and Beijing. Michelle Bachelet traveled to Xinjiang in the regional capital, Urumqi, and said she visited a prison in the city of Kashgar, where she saw prisoners in particular, describing its access as “fairly open, fairly transparent”. The Xinjiang government, she said, assured her that the network of “vocational training centers” had been “dismantled”. Michelle Bachelet said she visited one of these old centers. Details of his visit have not been made public. The Chilean ex-president, in the name of the epidemic situation in China, was in a health bubble which kept her away from the foreign press. SEE ALSO – Washington says it is “appalled” by the revelations about the repression of the Uyghurs
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