UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet announced during the Human Rights Council’s 49th session on Tuesday that her office has reached an agreement to visit China, including the province of Xinjiang in May.
This announcement comes as 192 human rights organizations published a joint open letter the same day to Bachelet, calling for her to publish her report on Xinjiang and alleged ongoing human rights violations in the region. The organizations highlighted the importance of releasing the report without delay “to send a message to victims and perpetrators alike that no state, no matter how powerful, is above international law or the robust independent scrutiny of your Office.”
Human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have alleged that at least one million people in Xinjiang, who are mostly Muslim minorities, have been arbitrarily detained by the Chinese government on the basis of religious affiliations and ethnicity.
Additionally, the US and UK governments, among others, have accused China of carrying out genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. China has condemned and denied these allegations.
Bachelet addressed her own concerns regarding restrictions on freedom of expression in China during the session:
In China, I remain concerned about the treatment of individuals who speak up on human rights issues that are deemed critical of the policies of the authorities at the local or national level- some of whom have faced restrictions on their freedom of movement, including house arrest, or in some cases have been sentenced to terms of imprisonment based on criminal charges stemming from their activities.
UNHRC spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell reported that she did not have further information on when the report on Xinjiang might be published.