China said on Tuesday that the United States, Britain and other foreign powers were seeking to sabotage its foreign relations by orchestrating criticism surrounding a trip by the top United Nations human rights official.
China has long withheld the fact-finding mission led by Michelle Bachelet, which focused on allegations of mass confinement, forced labor and compulsory birth control measures imposed on members of the Uyghur, Kazakh and other Muslim minorities.
In this photo released by the United Nations Human Rights Office, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the right meets with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in Guangzhou, in the province of Guangdong (southern China), Monday, May 23. PHOTO: United Nations Human Rights Office via AP.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin went on the offensive in the face of such criticism on Tuesday, saying that “the United States, Britain and other Western countries have repeatedly held political pranks surrounding the visit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to China”.
“They first openly and strongly demanded that the high commissioner visit China and Xinjiang, and carried out the so-called investigation with presumption of guilt,” Wang said at a daily press briefing.
The United States, Britain and other countries “rushed in and spared no effort to disrupt and sabotage the visit, creating conditions and obstacles for the visit”, Wang said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Bachelet in the southern city of Guangzhou on Monday, telling him that China opposes the “politicization” of human rights and the imposition of double standards.
Bachelet’s trip is the first to China by a United Nations high commissioner for human rights since 2005.
His six-day visit focuses on allegations of abuse against Muslim minorities in the northwest region of Xinjiang, but rights groups fear it could help whitewash a crackdown that the US has labeled genocide. .
China has locked down around a million or more members of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in what critics describe as a campaign to erase their separate cultural identities. China says it has nothing to hide and invites anyone with no political bias to visit Xinjiang and see what it describes as a successful campaign to fight terrorism and restore order and ethnic cohesion.
From Guangzhou, Bachelet must travel to Kashgar, once a stop on the Silk Road, and Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. The UN and China have banned foreign media from accompanying Bachelet, and it is unclear who she will meet and what access she will be granted throughout her visit.
The UN quoted Bachelet telling Wang that she looked forward to interacting with “many different people during my visit, especially with government officials, business leaders, academics, students and members of civil society working on human rights and other social and economic issues”. .”
“As we discuss sensitive and important issues, I hope this will help us build trust and allow us to work together to advance human rights in China and around the world,” he said. cited.
“Wang noted that to advance the international cause of human rights, we must first respect each other and refrain from politicizing human rights,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its website.
“Multilateral human rights institutions should serve as a major venue for cooperation and dialogue rather than a new battleground for division and confrontation,” he said.
A security person watches from a guard tower around a detention center in Yarkent County, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, March 21, 2021. Alleged violations of Human rights in China’s northwest Xinjiang region are the dominant issue during a visit by a senior United Nations rights official which kicked off Monday, May 23. changes are needed to counter Islamic extremism. PHOTO: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan/File Photo.
China’s ruling Communist Party does not allow any political opposition and strictly limits freedom of speech and the rights to assembly and religious expression. China is also one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council with veto power and has signed but not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights administered by Bachelet’s office.
Beijing has also come under fire for its refusal to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as its hardline “zero-COVID” approach to the pandemic that has disrupted the lives of tens of millions of citizens and disrupted global supply chains.
In an online meeting Tuesday with Wang, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on “members of the international community to condemn Russia’s illegal war of aggression and shoulder their responsibility to uphold international law.” and protect the Charter of the United Nations”.
Baerbock cited the “shocking reports and new evidence of very serious human rights abuses in Xinjiang and called for a transparent investigation”, his ministry said.
“Human rights are a fundamental part of the international order and Germany is committed to protecting them worldwide,” Baerbock said.
“I think it’s important that these accusations, which have been known for a long time, be addressed by the Chinese side, and I said that very, very clearly during the discussion this morning,” she added. .
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck called the latest reports of Uyghur internment, mistreatment and forced labor “particularly shocking”.
“At the international level, there needs to be a clear answer and further investigation into this,” he said in a statement.
Habeck said Germany had been reluctant for years to look closely at its close trading partner’s problematic human rights record, but the country’s new centre-left government was taking a different approach.
Germany will consider environmental, social and human rights aspects when considering applications for loan guarantees from German companies for their investments in China, he said.
“We will also be looking very closely at takeover bids by Chinese companies in Germany,” he added, saying a recent bid was banned while another was withdrawn by the company after protests. questions have been raised.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield echoed those concerns.
She tweeted: “Horrified by Xinjiang police files, which highlight the mass incarceration of Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in China.”
Thomas-Greenfield also said Bachelet and his office “need to look carefully at these faces and press Chinese officials for full and unfettered access — and answers.”