US ‘concerned’ as UN human rights chief urges China to review anti-terror policies

US ‘concerned’ as UN human rights chief urges China to review anti-terror policies

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, whose rare visit to China was criticized by human rights groups and Western countries, said she has urged Beijing to review its anti-terrorism policies to ensure they meet international human rights standards.

However, Bachelet 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 an opportunity to engage with the government.

Meanwhile, Washington said it “remains concerned” about Bachelet’s trip, which it believes China could use for propaganda purposes.

Bachelet began her trip to China, the first by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 17 years, on Monday in the southern city of Guangzhou before heading to Xinjiang.

His office said last year that it believed Uyghurs in Xinjiang had been illegally detained, mistreated and forced to work.

“I have raised questions and concerns about the implementation of anti-terrorism and de-radicalization measures in general, in particular the impact on the rights of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities,” he said during an online press conference on Saturday.

China denies all allegations of abuse in Xinjiang.

Bachelet’s access was limited as China arranged for her to travel in a “closed circuit”, isolating people inside a virtual bubble to prevent the spread of Covid-19, with no foreign press.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington “remains concerned” about Bachelet’s trip to China.

“We are concerned that the conditions that the Beijing authorities placed on the visit did not allow for a full and independent assessment of the human rights environment in (China), including in Xinjiang, where genocide and crimes against humanity continue,” he said. Blinken in a last-minute statement. on Saturday.

The United States was “more concerned” by reports that Xinjiang residents were pressured not to complain about conditions in the area.

“The High Commissioner should have been allowed confidential meetings with family members of Uyghurs and other ethnic minority diaspora communities in Xinjiang who are not in detention centers but are prohibited from traveling outside the region,” he said.

Human rights groups and Western countries fear that China will use his trip as an endorsement of its rights record. US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday that it was “a mistake to agree to a visit under the circumstances.”

China initially denied the existence of detention camps in Xinjiang, but in 2018 said it had set up “vocational training centers” needed to curb what it called terrorism, separatism and religious radicalism in the region.

Bachelet said that she raised with the Chinese government the lack of independent judicial oversight over the operation of the centers and the allegations of the use of force, ill-treatment and severe restrictions on religious practice.

In 2019, Xinjiang Governor Shohrat Zakir said all the trainees had “graduated.”

During the press conference, Bachelet also described as “deeply worrying” the arrest in Hong Kong of activists, lawyers and journalists.
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Ben Oakley
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