Human rights in China
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Xi and Bachelet spoke via video link on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

Xi Jinping tells UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet China doesn’t need ‘patronising’ lectures about its record

  • In a video call, the Chinese leader says human rights should not be used as a ‘pretext to interference’ in countries’ internal affairs
  • Bachelet will visit Xinjiang, where China is accused of wholesale abuses against Uygurs, but it is not clear if the pair discussed those allegations
Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke to the United Nations human rights commissioner by video conference in the middle of her six-day visit to the country that will include a visit to Xinjiang.

Xi defended China’s human rights record during Wednesday’s conversation with Michelle Bachelet and told her China would not accept any “patronising” lectures, according to state news agency Xinhua.

“When it comes to human rights issues, there is no such thing as a flawless utopia; countries do not need patronising lectures; still less should human rights issues be politicised and used as a tool to apply double standards, or as a pretext to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries,” Xi said.

UN rights chief accuses China of restricting civil freedoms

Xi also warned that “any system or model blindly copied from another country regardless of the situation on the ground will not only look out of place, but also bring disastrous consequences”.

The report did not mention if the two touched on alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang in their conversation.

Hours after Chinese media published remarks claiming that she “expressed admiration” for China’s efforts to “protect human rights”, her office issued a statement to “in response to widely reported remarks attributed to High Commissioner Bachelet”. Her remarks contained no such praise.


UN human rights chief speaks with Xi Jinping amid criticism of China trip

UN human rights chief speaks with Xi Jinping amid criticism of China trip

According to her office, Bachelet told Xi that she wanted to visit China to “to engage with the government of China directly, on human rights issues, domestic, regional and global”.

“For development, peace and security to be sustainable – locally and across borders – human rights have to be at their core,” she said.

“China has a crucial rule to play within multilateral institutions in confronting many of the challenges currently facing the world, including threats to international peace and security, instability in the global economic system, inequality, climate change and more.”

Bachelet also gave a speech via video link to students at Guangzhou University on Wednesday. She did not mention Xinjiang or other flashpoints but highlighted the importance of helping young people to participate in open civic spaces.

The trip, the first to China by a UN human rights commissioner in 17 years, is shrouded in controversy as Western governments and human rights activists have expressed concern she will not be given unfettered access in Xinjiang and fall into a “propaganda trap”.

No foreign media is allowed to trail her visit, and Chinese authorities said the tour would be conducted in a “closed loop” because of Covid-19 prevention.

On Tuesday, the US State Department said it was a mistake to agree to the visit because Bachelet would not have the necessary access to conduct a complete and unmanipulated assessment.


UN human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet arrives in China for Xinjiang visit

UN human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet arrives in China for Xinjiang visit

When asked about the US comment on Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China welcomed people from different countries to go to Xinjiang, but said China opposed any kind of investigation. He also accused the US of intentionally smearing China.

Bachelet met Foreign Minister Wang Yi in person on Monday, the first day of the visit, and held a virtual meeting with vice-minister of public security Du Hangwei on Tuesday. The second part of her trip will see her visiting Urumqi and Kashgar in Xinjiang.

On Monday, Wang Yi said he hoped Bachelet’s trip would “clarify misinformation”.

China to hit US officials with visa restrictions over Xinjiang ‘lies’

Bachelet tried to manage expectations in an online meeting with diplomats from 70 countries on Tuesday, saying her trip was not an investigation into China’s rights record but about longer-term engagement with Chinese authorities, according to Reuters.

At the beginning of her trip, a consortium of international media groups published a cache of photos and documents said to have been obtained by hacking into Chinese government’s computers.

The cache included a speech reportedly given by Xinjiang’s former Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo ordering guards to shoot anyone who tried to escape from internment camps, along with photos and details of some of alleged camp inmates.


Uygur woman describes torture in China’s Xinjiang ‘vocational training’ camps

Uygur woman describes torture in China’s Xinjiang ‘vocational training’ camps

China has fiercely denied accusations by Western media and Uygur exiles that it has sent over one million Uygurs and other Muslim minorities to reeducation camps to brainwash them and subject them to forced labour. Instead, it said, the ethnic minorities were given “vocational training” to help them find jobs.

Bachelet’s trip will include a visit to a detention facility in Xinjiang. Beijing has previously said the camps were closed.