The UN head of human rights says this year is pushing for “significant access” to the region.
UN Human Rights Chief Michele Bachelet has said she hopes to agree on the conditions for this year’s visit to China, including the Xinjiang region, to examine reports of serious violations against the Uyghur minority.
“I continue to discuss with China the modalities for a visit, including significant access, to the Uyghur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang,” Bachelet said Monday, addressing the opening of a Human Rights Council session in Geneva.
“[I] I hope this can be achieved this year, especially as reports of serious human rights violations continue to emerge. “
Bachelet’s statements marked the first time he publicly suggested a timetable for any such visit, that his office has been negotiating conditions since September 2018.
It is under increasing pressure from Western states to ensure free access to Xinjiang, where at least one million Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, have been detained in internment camps in the province, according to the UN.
Massive internment camps
Critics, including the United Kingdom and the United States, say they have been held captive in the camps human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, forced labor, torture, forced sterilization and family separation.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have released reports this year document anti-Uighur practices that said they could become crimes against humanity.
Beijing denies the allegations and describes the camps as vocational training facilities to combat religious extremism and boost economic development in the region.
Dozens of countries, led by Canada, are expected to make a joint statement to the council on Tuesday, expressing concern over the rights situation in Xinjiang and demanding that China grant access to Bachelet and other independent observers.
In anticipation of Tuesday’s statement, the Chinese mission in Geneva last week criticized the group for its efforts “to spread misinformation and lies to frame China” and to use “human rights as a political tool.”
Meanwhile, on the situation in Hong Kong, Bachelet told the council that the national security law imposed by China on the territory a year ago has had a “shocking chill” in the democratic space and media of the former British colony.
The legislation criminalized many dissents, gave China jurisdiction over some cases, and granted the authorities new investigative powers.
Bachelet said 107 people had been arrested under the law, including 57 formally charged.
“This will be an important test of independence for the Hong Kong judiciary in its willingness to fulfill Hong Kong’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in accordance with the basic law,” he said.
Government officials in Beijing and Hong Kong say national security law is needed to prevent threats to national security and that the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong are protected.
But critics say it is used to crush dissent at the global financial center.