U.S. tells China: Give U.N. rights chief wide access in Xinjiang

A woman with short hair and glasses gestures with her hands
The U.S. said a visit to China’s Xinjiang region by Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, should include access to “the locations where atrocities and human rights violations and abuses” have been reported.
(Martial Trezzini / Associated Press)

The United States called on China’s government Wednesday to grant “unhindered and unsupervised access” to Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, when she visits China and its western region of Xinjiang in May.

Ambassador Sheba Crocker, the U.S. permanent representative to United Nations organizations in Geneva, said any interference in the work of Bachelet’s team would support “propaganda” that denies alleged rights abuses against members of the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang and others.

Crocker said a credible visit by the U.N. human rights chief and her team should involve access to “the locations where atrocities and human rights violations and abuses” have been reported.


“We call upon the People’s Republic of China to ensure that her visit is accorded unhindered and unsupervised access to all areas of Xinjiang and to private meetings with a diverse range of Uyghur individuals and civil society groups,” Crocker said in a statement.

“Any access limitations imposed on the high commissioner or her office, or interference with their activities or reporting, would severely undermine the credibility of her visit and support the propaganda that denies the abuses occurring in Xinjiang,” she added.

Crocker, who took up the post in mid-January, also called on Bachelet to release a long-awaited and much delayed report from her office on Xinjiang.

Numerous human rights groups and advocacy organizations have chronicled or spoken out about allegations of rights abuses against Uyghurs and others in the region, but the report from Bachelet’s office would come with the imprimatur of the United Nations.

Diplomats in Geneva have said the report has been ready — or very close to it — for months. Bachelet’s office has not specified when it plans to release the report or whether her visit to China, announced Tuesday, would have any bearing on the timing of its publication.

More than 1 million people have been confined to camps in Xinjiang, according to foreign governments and researchers. Critics of Chinese government policies in the region have decried an alleged crackdown on religious practices, imposition of forced labor and other measures such as birth control on minorities — saying some of the actions could qualify as crimes against humanity.


Beijing rejects complaints of abuses and says the camps are for job training to support economic development and combat Islamic radicalism. The government has pressed foreign clothing and shoe brands to reverse decisions to stop using cotton from Xinjiang amid reports of possible forced labor.