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Uighurs urge UN human rights chief to ask tough questions in China

Uighurs have urged United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet not to fall victim to a public relations stunt as her trip to China on Tuesday enters a new fragile phase with a visit to the remote Xinjiang region.
The ruling Communist Party is accused of detaining more than a million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the far western region as part of a long-running security crackdown that the United States has called “genocide.”
China strongly denies the allegations, calling them “lies of the century.”
Ms. Bachelet is expected to visit the cities of Xinjiang Urumqi and Kashgar on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of a six-day tour.
“I hope she can also ask the Chinese government for my mother’s whereabouts,” Jevlan Shiremet said, adding that he had not been able to contact her for four years.
The 31-year-old resident of Turkey – from the northern part of the province near the border with Kazakhstan – also said he hoped Ms. Bachelet would dare to go further than her route.
“I don’t know why she can’t visit these places,” he told AFP.

Nursimangul Abduresid – another Uighur living in Turkey – “did not really hope that her trip could bring any changes”.


“I ask them to visit victims, such as members of my family, and not pre-arranged scenes by the Chinese government,” she told AFP.

“If the UN team cannot have unrestricted access to Xinjiang, I will not accept their so-called reports.”

China rejects “political manipulation” ahead of the visit

Ms. Bachelet arrived in China on Monday, embarking on the official’s first trip since 2005 amid concerns that it could lead to approval rather than verification of rights in China.
China’s foreign ministry has said it welcomes her but rejects “political manipulation” when asked by the media if she can visit detention centers, re-education camps and prisons where human rights groups say Uighurs have been ill-treated.
China has repeatedly denied any ill-treatment of Uighurs.

“The purpose of the private visit is to expand exchanges and cooperation between the two sides and to promote the international human rights cause,” ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a briefing on Monday.


He said Ms. Bachelet’s visit would be in a “closed loop”, meaning a way to isolate people in the “bubble” to prevent the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus.
This means that Ms. Bachelet will not be able to have free and spontaneous personal meetings with anyone who has not been pre-arranged by China to bring in “bubbles”.

Her office posted a photo of her on Twitter in a meeting room with Chinese officials, including Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and said: “We will discuss sensitive, important human rights issues, and I hope this visit will help us work together to promote human rights in China and around the world. ”

Mr Wang had previously said the media would not be traveling with Ms Bachelet because of the coronavirus pandemic. Her office said a press conference would be held at the end.
The trip on May 23-28 was being prepared long after in 2018 Ms. Bachelet said she wanted unimpeded access to Xinjiang. China has said the visit should not be based on a presumption of guilt.
Some human rights groups are concerned that if Ms. Bachelet does not put enough pressure on China, her post-trip report may not give a complete picture and could be used by Beijing to justify its actions in Xinjiang.
The World Uighur Congress called on Bachelet in a letter to ensure that her team could move freely, have access to all places of detention and have uncontrolled contact with the Uighurs.

“We are concerned that the trip could do more harm than good. China could use it for propaganda purposes,” Congresswoman Zumreta Arkin told Reuters.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Source: AAP

International scrutiny of the Xinjiang government’s actions intensified in 2018 after the United Nations said a million Uighurs were being held in “massive internment camps” set up for political indoctrination.

China initially denied the existence of any camps and later admitted that it had set up “training centers” with dormitories where people could “volunteer” to register to learn about the law, Chinese language and professional skills.
The atheist ruling Communist Party said such centers were needed to deter the “Three Forces” of terrorism, separatism and religious radicalism in Xinjiang, which borders Central Asia on China’s northwestern border.

Xinjiang Governor Shohrat Zakir said that in 2019, all interns “graduated.”


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