New Delhi, India: China might try to prevent the investigation by UN High Commission for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet under its restrictive COVID-19 measures.
This concern was raised by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), an international cross-party group of legislators pushing for democratic countries to take a tougher stance on China.
In a statement signed by over 40 legislators across 18 countries, the parliamentarians accused the Chinese government of organizing a ‘Potemkin-style tour’, risking lasting damage to the credibility of Michelle Bachelet’s office.
The legislators highlight that the UN Terms of Reference for such visits specify that the Commissioner should be given freedom of movement, conversations with civil society actors and confidential and unsupervised access to witnesses – all of which could be undermined by both the Chinese government’s crackdown in the region and restrictive COVID-19 measures.
Michelle Bachelet will be the first UN human rights chief to visit China since 2005. The visit will include a visit to the Xinjiang province, where alleged human rights abuses include forced labour, forced sterilisation and the arbitrary detention of at least one million Uyghur Muslims.
Last year the independent Uyghur Tribunal concluded that the Chinese government is carrying out Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity against the Uyghurs, with the US State Department and parliaments of the UK, Netherlands, Canada and elsewhere supporting this decision.
“We, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), note with profound concern recent developments surrounding the upcoming visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), Michele Bachelet, to the Uyghur Region of the People’s Republic of China (PRC),” the IPAC said in a statement.
The scale and severity of the persecution of Uyghurs and other minorities are exceptionally well documented. Indeed, the High Commissioner herself has prepared a report into the situation which remains unpublished, despite assurances in December 2021 that it would be released “within a few weeks”.
According to IPAC, the stakes are, therefore “very high.”
“Should the High Commissioner fail to obtain the necessary access for a meaningful investigation, the credibility of the office could suffer lasting damage, and the ability for the UNHCHR to secure meaningful future investigations may well be compromised,” the statement added.