UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has said she hoped she would be able to visit China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang this year and be given "meaningful access," amid what she called continued "reports of serious human rights violations" there.
Bachelet made the comments at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on June 21, as China is facing growing international criticism over its treatment of Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim indigenous people in Xinjiang – with the United States using the word genocide.
It is the first time Bachelet has publicly laid down a timeline for her visit, which her office has been negotiating the terms of since 2018.
"I continue to discuss with China modalities for a visit, including meaningful access, to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and hope this can be achieved this year, particularly as reports of serious human rights violations continue to emerge," she said. The UN has estimated that at least 1 million members of these ethnic groups have been detained in what it described as "counterextremism centers" in the region. The UN has also said that millions more have been forced into internment camps, though Beijing insists that the facilities are "vocational education centers" aimed at helping people steer clear of terrorism and allowing them to be reintegrated into society. Rights defenders also accuse China of forcing hundreds of thousands of people into labor camps under a “coercive” scheme targeting ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang – a claim rejected by Beijing.