GENEVA: UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet announced on Tuesday (Mar 8) that she has reached an agreement with China for a visit, “foreseen” in May, and said she had already raised with Beijing cases of arrest and detention of activists.
Her visit would include a stop in the remote western region of Xinjiang, where activists say about 1 million Uyghurs have been held in mass detention, she told the Human Rights Council.
China rejects accusations of abuse, describing the camps as vocational centres designed to combat extremism, and in late 2019 it said all people in the camps had “graduated”.
Bachelet, speaking by video message to the Geneva forum, made no reference to her long-awaited report on alleged abuses against Uyghurs. Her office began gathering evidence about 3.5 years ago and in December, her spokesperson had promised its release within weeks.
Referring to China, Bachelet voiced concern about the treatment of people who speak up on human rights issues that are deemed critical of Chinese government policies. Some had faced house arrest or prison terms based on criminal charges stemming from their activities, she said.
“My office has raised a number of such cases with the government and encourage the authorities to take steps to ensure that freedom of expression and opinion are fully respected and protected,” Bachelet added, giving no details.
An advance team from her office would leave in April to prepare for her visit – the first by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights since Louise Arbour went to China in 2005 – she said.