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Tibetan, Uyghur, Hongkonger, and Chinese representatives call for the immediate postponement of the UN High Commissioner’s visit to China

    Lack of transparency surrounding Michelle Bachelet’s visit will see her walk into China’s carefully controlled minefield.

    2 May 2022


    Tibetan, Uyghur, Hongkonger and Chinese representatives have today, in a press conference, called for an immediate postponement of the UN High Commissioner’s upcoming visit to China, raising the credibility of her office is now at stake over the handling of this extremely volatile trip. [1]

    The group condemned the UN High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, for her abject failure to consult with affected communities given China’s severe restrictions on access will prevent her from getting a full and accurate picture of the human rights situation during her trip.

    “Not only has she not consulted with Tibet groups about this visit, she has not responded to at least ten letters we have sent to her since 2018 and has never even spoken about Tibet publicly,” said Lhadon Tetong of Tibet Action Institute. She added that “[Michelle Bachelet’s] silence and failure to act stands in stark contrast to her predecessor [Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein].” 

    The lack of consultation with Tibetan, Uyghur, Hongkonger, and Chinese communities in exile includes her ignoring numerous survivors of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the concentration camps in East Turkistan, the 2008 uprising in Tibet, and the recent severe crackdown in Hong Kong.   

    Zumretay Arkin of the World Uyghur Congress said “Victims of atrocity crimes, including genocide, deserve to be heard, consulted with, and to have access to accountability measures. The United Nations is supposed to play this role, but unfortunately, [the UN High Commissioner] has failed our community on multiple occasions, and this is one of them.”

    Affected communities slammed her office’s stalling of the long-delayed report on East Turkistan (CH: Xinjiang), which appears nowhere to be seen despite well-founded allegations of genocide and the arbitrary detention of millions of Uyghurs and Turkic Muslims in camps.

    Tibetan, Uyghur, Hongkonger, and Chinese rights activists strongly criticised the High Commissioner for her lack of transparency surrounding the circumstances of her trip, including locations to be visited and red-line guarantees obtained from the Chinese authorities; concerns heightened by China’s demand for “a friendly visit” at the expense of a rigorous human rights monitoring mission. [2]

    Lhadon Tetong of Tibet Action Institute said: “It is unconscionable, that now on the eve of her visit to China, the first of a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 16 years (and over 20 to Tibet), has not said anything about her plans to try to visit Tibet.” 

    Joey Siu of Hong Kong Watch said: “[…] despite the continuous efforts from not just Hongkongers but also other members of affected communities and international human rights groups, the High Commissioner showed no intention to visit Hong Kong and meet with political prisoners… It is unreasonable and troubling that the High Commissioner is now choosing to neglect the worsening situations in Hong Kong.”

    The fact that a UN High Commissioner has not visited China in over 16 years, Tibet in over 22 years, and has never before visited East Turkistan (CH: Xinjiang) nor Hong Kong, makes securing meaningful and unfettered access to human rights defenders, political prisoners, internment camps and colonial boarding schools absolutely imperative.

    The group expressed serious concern that without assurances, the visit risks simply being a convenient tick-box exercise for the Chinese Government, which could see Tibetans, Uyghurs, Hong Kongers, and other affected communities rendered once again inaccessible for decades.

    Gloria Montgomery of Tibet Advocacy Coalition said: “It is utterly shocking that there is so little transparency around this extremely important visit by the High Commissioner. Without consulting those with first-hand experience and knowledge of the situation, the High Commissioner is simply walking into a minefield that is controlled by the Chinese government.” 

    Kai Muller of International Campaign for Tibet said: “In the short-term, the visit may be used as a propaganda tool to discredit the numerous accounts of gross human rights violations in East Turkistan (Xinjiang), Tibet and across China.”

    Questions over whether the Chinese authorities will use the COVID-19 pandemic to further limit access to the High Commissioner remain unanswered.

    Editors Notes:

    [1] Video conference footage is available to view and to use for broadcast HERE[2] Global Times, ‘China opposes UN High Commissioner’s erroneous remarks on Xinjiang, HK: spokesperson’ 21 June 2021: