UN rights chief to visit Xinjiang as groups press for report

FILE - UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet addresses a news conference in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on Dec. 1, 2021. The U.N. human rights chief said Tuesday, March 8, 2022 that her office and China’s government have reached an agreement for her to visit in May the western region of Xinjiang, where many human rights groups and the governments like that of the United States have alleged that genocide and other crimes are being carried out against the predominantly Muslim minority group known as Uyghurs. Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Human Rights Council by video message that she was “pleased” to announce the visit and said concrete preparations have begun on it.(AP Photo/Sophie Garcia) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. human rights chief said Tuesday that her office and China’s government have reached an agreement for her to visit in May the western region of Xinjiang, where human rights groups and Western governments have alleged that genocide and other crimes are being carried out against the predominantly Muslim minority group known as Uyghurs.

Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Human Rights Council by video message that she was pleased to announce the visit and that concrete preparations have begun.

She said the Chinese government has also accepted the visit of an advance team from her office next month “to prepare my stay in China, including on-site visits to Xinjiang and other places.”

Bachelet has talked about hoping to visit Xinjiang nearly since she took office in 2018. Her office has also been compiling a long-awaited -– and much-delayed -– report into alleged human rights abuses in the region.

Separately, Human Rights Watch said a total of 195 human rights groups in an open letter released Tuesday are calling on Bachelet to “urgently” release the report on “Chinese government rights violations targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic communities.”

Diplomats in Geneva have said the report has been ready — or very close to it — for months. Speaking to the rights council on Thursday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on Bachelet's office to release the report.

Human rights groups and others have focused much of their criticism on what they call detention centers set up by the Chinese government for Uyghurs and others in the region.

Beijing says the sites are vocational training centers aimed at helping improve economic fortunes and counteract bouts of extremist violence in Xinjiang.

“Human rights groups have become increasingly concerned that the U.N. human rights office has still not published its long-awaited report on Xinjiang, even as the atrocity crimes pile up,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.