Beijing’s propaganda machine has ousted the UN human rights chief during his visit to China, with propagandists saying the ambassador accused of playing a role in whitewashing abuses against minorities in Xinjiang has been released.
Michelle Bachelet’s long-planned visit this week has taken her to the far west, where Beijing has been accused of capturing one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, forcibly sterilizing women and running labor camps that fuel the global supply chain.
The United States and several Western lawmakers have called the move a “genocide,” with China vehemently denying the allegations, saying it only conducted security measures necessary to suppress extremism and strengthen development.
Bachelet has faced criticism from rights groups and foreign Uyghurs, who say she was sucked into a glamorous choreographed Communist Party tour in which a conversation with President Xi Jinping was later portrayed in the state media as a mutual support for China’s high ideology on rights.
The UN ambassador is scheduled to hold a press briefing late Saturday night shortly after his visit.
He is expected to be questioned about Uighur residents’ access and detention facilities in Xinjiang, giving him a final chance to deal with allegations of abuse inside China.
Alcan Akad, a China researcher at Amnesty International, said it was “clear as day” that China had so far “used the visit to promote its own details and to maintain its weak human rights record”.
The goal is to “show the world that it can lean on the will of a top UN human rights official – and thus the concept of human rights -“, says Maya Wang, a senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Rahima Mahmoud, a London-based Uyghur activist, called the visit a “window dressing”.
“It’s not an impartial, independent, uninterrupted investigation that we were promised,” he told AFP.
Instead, Beijing “wanted” a free pass to continue the persecution, surveillance, torture and genocide against a community like mine.
Talk or stay away
Bachelet has been in Xinjiang since Tuesday with his office, and plans to visit the regional capital, Urumqi, and the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar.
Yet the difficult details of what he saw and who he met were largely kept secret during a trip performed in a “closed loop” at the behest of Beijing, apparently because of the coveted risk.
China has filled the information gap, with state media running a joyful readout of the meeting between him and Xi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
They said Bachelet had said during a virtual call with Shir that “… he appreciated China’s efforts and success in defending human rights.”
A spokesman for Bachelet did not confirm the reports when contacted by AFP, instead saying the UN would not release a readout of the bilateral meeting.
Later, the UN quickly stopped denying the “clarification” that it appreciated China’s rights record. But neither side mentioned Xinjiang in their readout.
Abduveli Ayoup, a Norwegian-based Uyghur activist, said he was “disappointed” that the bachelorette had come to allow Beijing to “misinterpret” his words.
“They have already used (him) for publicity,” he told AFP.
Although it was unclear what he saw in Xinjiang, Bachelet was presented with a book of top quotes on human rights – images that were widely circulated throughout the Chinese media.
A steady drip-feed of state media articles during his visit also praised Xinjiang’s economic development and growing income.
China rejects all criticism of its policies in Xinjiang and often seems to condemn them internally.
Beijing denies that Bachelet’s visit is an investigation, an opportunity to “clarify misinformation.”
This comes after the first visit of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to China in 17 years and a heated discussion on the parameters of his visit, which the UN has said is not a fact-finding mission or investigation.
Steve Sang, director of the SOAS China Institute, said Beijing would not use the visit to “present its own narrative” on human rights “for the sake of birds.”
“He must have the political courage and integrity to speak out when his words and his visit are being distorted,” he said. “If he is not ready and unable to do so, he should not be visited.”
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)