U.N. Rights Chief, Denouncing ‘Gross Inequalities,’ Jabs at China and Israel

The New York Times
Date: March 6, 2019
By: Nick Cumming-Bruce

Michelle Bachelet, center, before a speech in Geneva on Wednesday detailing the state of global human rights.CreditCreditSalvatore Di Nolfi/EPA, via Shutterstock

GENEVA — The United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet mentioned potential rights violations in China and Israel in an address on Wednesday that condemned a litany of “gross inequalities” at play across the world today.

Ms. Bachelet pressed China to allow an independent inquiry into reports of abuses and enforced disappearances in the country, particularly in the western region of Xinjiang, where the Muslim Uighur minority resides.

Stability and security in Xinjiang, an area at the center of China’s $1 trillion “Belt and Road” initiative, “can be facilitated by policies which demonstrate the authorities’ respect of all people’s rights,” she said.

Ms. Bachelet also had harsh words for Israel’s blockade of Gaza, saying the policy had left “more than 70 percent of people on humanitarian assistance, primarily food.”

Ms. Bachelet’s statement to the United Nations Human Rights Councilin Geneva was her first annual assessment of global rights since she took up her post in August.

Here are some of the major cases she cited.

China’s mass re-education program

While Ms. Bachelet praised the rapid economic progress that has lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty in recent years, she was critical of Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang. Uighurs there have increasingly been targeted by the authorities, including being rounded up en masse.

Ms. Bachelet’s highlighting of the situation in Xinjiang will probably annoy Beijing, which sharply denies that it has forcibly detained upward of one million Uighurs. The government says the camps are intended to eliminate the risk of Islamist radicalization.

But academic research and news reports have challenged those claims. After the issue was brought to global attention last year, China embarked on an intensive information campaign including guided tours to Xinjiang for diplomats stationed in Beijing. The visits were carefully choreographed to reinforce the official narrative that the camps provided vocational training to improve livelihoods in one of China’s poorest regions.

Rights groups say Ms. Bachelet should continue to push for access for independent monitors.

“We should expect a firm rebuke from the Chinese delegation” Sarah Brooks, a China specialist at the nonprofit International Service for Human Rights, said. “The High Commissioner should be prepared to stand her ground on these demands.”    [FULL  STORY]