UN Human Rights chief visits China for first time since 2005

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet begins a five-day visit to China today, the first by a UN

China Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping at a UN meeting on Human Rights

China Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping at a UN meeting on Human Rights – Denis Balibouse/Reuters

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet begins a five-day visit to China today, the first by a UN human rights chief since 2005.

Watch groups have widely condemned Beijing for a slew of human rights abuses, ranging from political indoctrination and arbitrary detentions to torture and extrajudicial killings. This mistreatment has extended to human rights activists operating within China, both of Chinese and foreign citizenship. Beijing officials are expected to show Bachelet the western province Xinjiang, where her office believes the government has unlawfully detained and abused ethnic Uyghurs Muslims. 

Although Bachelet says that she will require “unfettered” access to Xinjiang to conduct an “independent assessment,” the terms of her trip are unknown, and Beijing authorities have stated that Bachelet is limited to a “friendly” visit. As such, it is highly unlikely she will observe anything more than a Potemkin village. Indeed, a carefully tailored tour of Xinjiang is likely to only aid Beijing’s public relations effort to depict China as an observer of human rights norms, despite considerable evidence attesting to the contrary. Moreover, in light of Russia’s refusal to acknowledge war atrocities in Ukraine, China is also likely attempting to distinguish itself from its authoritarian counterpart.

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