UN: Credibility of rights chief at stake during visit to China
(Geneva) – The upcoming visit to China by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should highlight the need to bring justice to victims of violations and hold those responsible to account, Human Rights Watch said today. High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet is due to visit China during the last 10 days of May 2022, the first visit to China by a UN human rights commissioner since 2005.
While the high commissioner has previously claimed she would need “unfettered” access to Xinjiang, the Uyghur region, to conduct an “independent assessment”, the terms of her visit were not disclosed and the Chinese authorities insisted they would allow nothing. other than a “friendly visit” for the purpose of dialogue.
“The Chinese government has been committing human rights abuses on an unimaginable scale and scale since a high commissioner last visited in 2005, in part because there is no fear of having to give up. accounts,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “The High Commissioner must work to end, not allow, this perception.”
Chinese authorities launched a “Strike Hard Against Violent Extremism” campaign in 2014. This escalated into widespread and systematic policies of mass detention, torture, cultural persecution and other offenses against Uyghurs and other Turkish populations in Xinjiang which constitute crimes against humanity.
UN researchers, journalists and human rights experts have documented the Chinese government’s misuse of terrorism charges to violate human rights, mass surveillance, cultural persecution and destruction of historical and religious sites. Hundreds of victims of the “Strike Hard” campaign have shared testimonies of their experiences, and government documents leaked in 2019 reveal intent to commit large-scale abuses.
In recent years, the Chinese authorities have also sought to systematically eradicate the cultural, linguistic and religious freedoms of Tibetans, and to erase the human rights and free society of Hong Kongers. Authorities across the country are silencing and imprisoning human rights defenders or driving them into exile. Authorities are increasingly deploying high-tech surveillance tools to detect and deter any speech they deem critical of the government or the Chinese Communist Party.
High Commissioner Bachelet’s response to these escalating abuses has been relatively muted, Human Rights Watch said. His visit comes just before the anniversary of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, in which the military opened fire and killed countless peaceful protesters and bystanders. Following the killings, the government carried out a national crackdown and arrested thousands of people for “counter-revolution”.
The government has never accepted responsibility for the massacre or held anyone responsible legally responsible for the killings. Authorities continue to harass the Tiananmen Mothers, a group of family members of victims and survivors of the 1989 pro-democracy movement. and arrested the organizers of the vigil.
Since President Xi Jinping took power in 2013, Chinese delegations to the United Nations have attempted to rewrite norms and manipulate existing procedures to minimize scrutiny of the Chinese government’s conduct and weaken oversight mechanisms. responsibility. The government has sought to remove human rights mandates from UN peacekeeping operations and has blocked actions to advance accountability for rights abuses, including in crises such as Syria , Yemen, Myanmar, Ethiopia and Ukraine.
China systematically abuses its membership in UN committees to deny accreditation to organizations that criticize the Chinese government’s rights abuses. In 2017, Human Rights Watch assessed the Chinese government’s efforts to thwart UN human rights scrutiny around the world, documenting threats to virtually every aspect of these institutions. While about two dozen United Nations agencies are present in China, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is not one of them.
Bachelet first publicly announced that his office had requested an unfettered visit to Xinjiang in September 2018. Since then, Chinese authorities have blocked, evidently to defer, delay or deny the UN meaningful access to the region. In September 2021, Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council that his office was “finalizing its assessment of available information on allegations of serious human rights violations in this region with a view to making them public”. .
Eight months later, the Bachelet cabinet has not yet published its report. No explanation was provided for the delay, and it is unclear when or if the report will be released. In March, she informed the Human Rights Council of her intention to visit China in May.
Dozens of organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have expressed grave concerns that the Chinese government will manipulate the visit as a publicity stunt, while pressuring Bachelet to further delay her report or dilutes the conclusions.
“It defies credibility that the Chinese government is allowing the high commissioner to see everything he doesn’t want her to see, or allowing human rights defenders, victims and their families to speak to her in safety, unsupervised and without fear of reprisal,” Richardson said. mentioned. “Bachelet’s legacy as high commissioner will be measured by his willingness to hold a powerful state accountable for crimes against humanity committed under his supervision.