UN rights chief to visit China next week, travel to Xinjiang

GENEVA , 21 May (AP) — The United Nations’ top human rights official will visit China next week on a trip that will take her to the Xinjiang region, where rights groups and some Western governments allege the Chinese government is committing genocide and serious abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet will start her six-day visit on Monday, her office said Friday. She will visit Guangzhou, Kashgar and the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi.

It will be the first such visit to China by a U.N. high commissioner for human rights since 2005, Bachelet’s office said. She plans to speak with high-level national and local officials, civil society organizations, business representatives and academics, and deliver a lecture to students at Guangzhou University.

A five-member advance team arrived in China on April 25 to prepare for Bachelet’s visit, traveling to Guangzhou and Xinjiang.

Bachelet announced in March that her office reached an agreement with China’s government that she could visit Xinjiang. She has long talked about hoping to visit the region, and her office has also been compiling a long-awaited report into alleged human rights abuses there.

Almost 200 rights groups have urged Bachelet to release her report, which diplomats have said has been ready — or very close to it — for months.

Rights groups and researchers accuse China of locking up more than a million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and members of other minority groups in re-education camps; forced labor; forcing women from the region to undergo contraceptive measures; and separating children from incarcerated parents.

The U.S. government has declared that Beijing’s policies against the Uyghurs amount to genocide and crimes against humanity. Legislatures in Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada have done the same.

China denies the allegations and maintains its policies were meant to de-radicalize those influenced by jihadi propaganda following years of violent outbursts against Chinese rule in the region.