By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, June 9: Over 230 rights groups in a joint letter demanded the resignation of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet following her visit to China, where many accused her of ‘whitewashing’ the Chinese government’s atrocities in oppressed regions. The activists slammed her six-day visit, accusing her of downgrading the struggles of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Southern Mongolians, Hong Kongers among others. “We further call on the UN Secretary General to not propose the renewal of her mandate and demand the High Commissioner immediately release the report on the human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Turkic communities in East Turkistan [Ch: Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region],” the open letter demanded the release of China report UN had promised last year.
The landmark visit after 17 years by a UN High Commissioner was a “rare opportunity” to demand genuine accountability for the severe allegations of rights violations by the CCP government. “Bachelet neglected to offer a single specific recommendation to address the gravity of the human rights crisis. This abject failure to hold the Chinese government accountable for its crimes comes despite an unprecedented call in June 2020, by over 50 UN experts for “decisive measures” to protect fundamental freedoms in China,” the statement strongly noted.
The controversial visit to China by Bachelet drew heavy criticism for side-lining human rights issues, especially in Xinjiang, which was her visit’s central focus, where observers have claimed that a ‘genocide’ of the minority Uyghur community is taking place under Chinese rule. “The High Commissioner legitimized Beijing’s attempt to cover up its crimes by using the Chinese government’s false “counter-terrorism” framing and repeatedly referred to the notorious internment camps by the Chinese government’s term: “Vocational Education and Training Centers” (VETCs),” the groups further said. Bachelet in her concluding statement addressed the attacks on the Uyghurs in the context of “de-radicalization measures” and portrayed China as a proponent of a unique, multi-layered society.
Earlier this month, over 200 activists and human rights groups urged the High Commissioner Bachelet to either postpone her official visit to China or “risk walking into a propaganda minefield laid out by the CCP” in a statement. During her tenure, she has been eerily silent on the human rights crisis in Tibet, as when she mentioned Tibet in her end-of-visit press conference, she failed to “critique and address the unprecedented, systematic and escalating attacks taking place on Tibetan language and identity today.” The group said they were furious that she “naively” posed for a photo opportunity with Chinese foreign affairs minister Wang Yi.
The letter debunked Bachelet’s statement where she said that a virtual meeting with a number of civil society organizations had taken place to back her problematic statement. “She failed to mention that this was the first time in four years that she agreed to meet with any affected communities despite consistent requests. By holding a two hour virtual meeting a matter of days before her visit, she limited the space and scope of any substantive discussions,” the open letter said, adding that the meeting only took place after the groups demanded that High commissioner reverse her plans to visit or risk walking into a minefield of propaganda laid out by China.