June 8, 2023

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UN rights chief leaving with China report still unreleased

UN rights chief leaving with China report still unreleased

Diplomats paid tribute to departing UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday, despite her failure to release a long-promised report on alleged abuses in China’s Xinjiang region.

A long line of country representatives took the floor at a UN rights council to praise how Bachelet had handled the challenges of the past four years.

But while the former Chilean president was greeted with praise, flowers and a standing ovation, the row over a long-promised report on the rights situation in Xinjiang remains unresolved.

Bachelet told the council nearly a year ago that her office was finalising a report on the situation in the far-western Chinese region, where Beijing stands accused of detaining more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.

She steps down from her post on Wednesday with her successor still to be appointed — and the report still unreleased.

Rights groups have grown increasingly frustrated at the delay.

With just a day to go before she steps down however, it looks increasingly unlikely that she will keep her promise to release it before she leaves.

‘Tremendous pressure’

Several rights groups raised the issue during Tuesday’s meeting, as did Britain’s ambassador to the rights council, Rita French.

It is “essential for all of us that no state is free from objective scrutiny on its human rights record, and that no state can be allowed to stifle the high commissioner’s independent voice,” said French.

“We therefore urge you to publish your report on China.”

John Fisher of Human Rights Watch, while acknowledging Bachelet’s accomplishments, added: “All of that risks being overshadowed if you fail to publish your report on Xinjiang before leaving office.

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“Uyghurs and other victims have placed their trust in you to report on the extent of the abuses they face,” he said.

“If you don’t stand up for victims, who will?”

Campaigners accuse China of a litany of abuses in Xinjiang, including mass detention, forced labour, compulsory sterilisation and the destruction of Uyghur cultural and religious sites.

The United States and lawmakers in other Western countries have gone so far as to accuse China of committing genocide against the minority groups.

Beijing vehemently rejects the claims.

Bachelet did not address the issue on Tuesday, but last week she acknowledged to journalists that her office had been under “tremendous pressure to publish or not to publish”.

She insisted that she would “not publish or withhold publication due to any such pressure”, insisting, “we’re trying very hard to do what I promised”.