China agrees to let UN rights chief visit Xinjiang

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Beijing denies all allegations of abuse of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims. (AP pic)

Reuters

BEIJING: China has agreed to let the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights visit Xinjiang in the first half of 2022 after the Beijing Winter Olympics, according to a report in the South China Morning Post which cited unnamed sources.

Rights groups have accused China of perpetrating widescale abuses against Uighurs and other minority groups in its western region of Xinjiang, including mass detention, torture and forced labour.

The US has accused China of genocide.

Beijing denies all allegations of abuse of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims and has described its policies as necessary to combat religious extremism.

UN human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet has been pursuing negotiations with China on a visit since September 2018.

China’s foreign ministry, China’s mission to the United Nations in New York, and the United Nations did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The South China Morning Post report yesterday cited sources saying that the approval for a visit after the conclusion of the Beijing Winter Games, which runs from Feb 4 to Feb 20, was granted on the condition the trip should be “friendly” and not framed as an investigation.

As in 2008, the Olympics have again cast a spotlight on China’s human rights record, which critics say has worsened since then, leading Washington to call Beijing’s treatment of Uighur Muslims genocide and prompting a diplomatic boycott from the US and other countries.

“No one, especially the world’s leading human rights diplomat, should be fooled by the Chinese government’s efforts to distract attention away from its crimes against humanity targeting Uighurs and other Turkic communities,” Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters in an emailed statement today.