U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet just announced that she hopes “to agree on terms” with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP/CPC) to visit the Xinjiang area of China to investigate reported abuse of Uyghur Muslims and others. Ironic, considering this same Michelle Bachelet deliberately sought to increase ties with China as much as possible during her terms as president of Chile.
Since September 2018, Bachelet’s office has been attempting to negotiate terms for her visit to China, but Monday is the first instance when an actual time (this year) was announced. The Chinese UN mission in Geneva told Reuters that both Hong Kong and Xinjiang, areas where many human rights violations have been reported, are “‘inalienable parts of China’s territory’ and that it [China] brooked ‘no interference by external forces.’”
Spokesman Liu Yuyin later issued a statement saying China would welcome a visit from Bachelet only if it were a “friendly one” with the goal of “promoting cooperation ‘rather than making the so-called ‘investigation’ under the presumption of guilt.’” Because it is China’s word against all the solid evidence of CCP abuse of Uyghurs, Chinese Catholics and other Christians, and political dissidents—which one ought obviously to be believed?
“Bachelet is under growing pressure from Western states to secure unfettered access to Xinjiang,” because of more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslims being held in forced labor camps, says the Reuters report. The CCP has repeatedly denied the accusations of genocidal practices, despite growing evidence from groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and is still claiming that the camps are “vocational training facilities to combat religious extremism.” Testimony from escapees indicates that vague charges such as suspicions of extremism are being used as pretexts by the Chinese to round up large numbers of Uyghurs who have not committed crimes. The CCP has used similar vague charges before to arrest and persecute members of other religious and political sects such as Catholics and pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong.
“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,” Michelle Bachelet said, addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
If history is any indicator, however, I really think the CCP need not worry over whether the visit of the UN human rights chief will be “friendly.” Bachelet deliberately sought to strengthen ties with Communist China just a few years ago while president of Chile.
Bachelet, a Chilean Socialist politician, was hailed in 2014 by Marcos Jaramillo, director of the Asian Studies Center at the Catholic University of Chile, as likely to strengthen “ties with the Chinese government” during her presidential term. Jaramillo cited Bachelet’s record during her first tenure as Chilean president, when, among other actions, she visited China more than once and brought into force the China-Chile Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Bachelet certainly continued her CCP-friendly record during her second term. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a 2016 press release concerning then-President Bachelet and Chinese President Xi Jinping, “The Two Heads of State Decide to Build China-Chile Comprehensive Strategic Partnership to Initiate a New Development Stage for Bilateral Relations.”
Xi Jinping actually came to Chile for the talks, and both presidents seemed to have been trying to outdo each other in warm demonstrations. “Xi Jinping pointed out that in Latin America, a proverb goes ‘real friends can reach your heart even from another pole of the earth.’ China and Chile are exactly friends of this kind. Although [the] two countries are far apart, we enjoy close connection in heart, thus creating many ‘firsts’ in China-Latin America relations. With high-level political mutual trust, mutual benefit and win-win results in economy and ever closer multilateral coordination, China-Chile relations have entered a new phase featuring maturity and stability.”
Bachelet responded to Xi Jinping with a less poetic but no less “warm welcome.” Bachelet “noted that this visit will enhance Chile-China friendship and strengthen bilateral political dialogue and economic and trade connection. Chile is willing to take the establishment of comprehensive strategic partnership as an opportunity to deepen cooperation with China in various fields and develop new cooperation areas. . .Chile welcomes more investment from Chinese enterprises and hopes to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as soon as possible. Chile stands ready to intensify coordination and cooperation with China in international affairs.”
Under the “upgrade of [the] Chile-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA). . .Both sides agreed to strengthen high-level exchanges, intensify communication at all levels. . . Both sides agreed to take the China-Latin America Cultural Exchange Year and the Chile Week as opportunities to broaden communication and cooperation.”
The details go on, but the main point is this—the UN Human Rights commissioner now expressing a desire to examine human rights abuses in Xinjiang was inviting Xi Jinping to Chile and doing everything possible to make Chile more beholden to the CCP only a few years ago. How did this woman ever become U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in the first place? Does anyone doubt the sincerity of Michelle Bachelet? Maybe she can suggest during her visit to Xinjiang that its problems are being solved through a “China-Uyghur Cultural Exchange Year.” Uyghurs give up their rights, labor, and lives, and China brings a new culture to the region. Then perhaps Xi Jinping would be happy to welcome his friend “from another pole of the earth” again.
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