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US concerned over China’s efforts to ‘restrict and manipulate’ UN official visit to Beijing

We are further troubled by reports that residents of Xinjiang were warned not to complain or speak openly about conditions in the region,

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Washington: The United States remains concerned about China’s efforts to “restrict and manipulate” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s official visit to Beijing, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said.

“We are concerned the conditions Beijing authorities imposed on the visit did not enable a complete and independent assessment of the human rights environment in the PRC (People’s Republic of China), including in Xinjiang, where genocide and crimes against humanity are ongoing,” Blinken said in a statement on Saturday.

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“We are further troubled by reports that residents of Xinjiang were warned not to complain or speak openly about conditions in the region,” Blinken said, adding that, it remains concerned in light of new reports that offer further proof of arbitrary detentions among the more than one million people detained in Xinjiang.

“Survivors and family members of detainees have described cruel treatment that shocks the conscience, including torture, forced sterilization, state-sponsored forced labor, sexual violence, and forced separation of children from their parents,” Blinken said.

Bachelet, who completed her six-days trip to China starting Monday, began her remarks on Saturday by stressing that her visit was not an investigation.  

“Official visits by a high commissioner by their nature are high profile and not conducive to the … work of an investigative nature,” she said, reports The Guardian.

Regarding Xinjiang, Bachelet said she recognised the damage caused by “violent extremism” but said it was critical that counter-terrorism responses “are not themselves human rights violations”.

The top UN human rights official’s Saturday conference received wide criticism from human-rights groups and activists. “This was her moment to really speak truth to power and I felt she fell so short,” Rayhan Asat, a Uyghur activist and international human rights lawyer whose brother is jailed in Xinjiang.

Blinken noted that the official was not allowed access to individuals who were part of the Xinjiang labor transfer program and was sent to other provinces across China.  

He reiterated that the UN official should have been allowed confidential meetings with family members of Uyghur and other ethnic minority diaspora communities in Xinjiang.

Blinken urged China to respect the human rights of Tibetans, those living in Hong Kong, and all others who seek to peacefully exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In conclusion, Blinken called China to “immediately cease its atrocities” in Xinjiang and allow independent investigators unhindered access to Tibet, and across China.

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