UN Human Rights Chief Takes on China Abuses

September 10, 2018 Updated: September 10, 2018

GENEVA—U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on China on Sept. 10 to allow in monitors after “deeply disturbing” allegations of large re-education camps in which Uyghurs are detained in Xinjiang.

Her appeal for access came as Human Rights Watch reported that the Turkic, mostly Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang face arbitrary detentions, daily restrictions on religious practice, and “forced political indoctrination” in a mass security crackdown.

A United Nations rights panel said last month it had received credible reports that up to one million Uyghurs may be held in extralegal detention in the far western region of China, and called for them to be freed.

Bachelet, a former Chilean president making her maiden speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council, said the panel had brought to light “deeply disturbing allegations of large-scale arbitrary detentions of Uyghurs and other Muslim communities, in so-called re-education camps across Xinjiang.”

Reports had been received of “patterns of human rights violations in other regions,” she said. Bachelet called on the Beijing government to permit access for her staff across China, saying that she expected discussions to start soon.

There was no immediate comment from the Chinese delegation to the council. Countries are due to respond to her speech on Sept. 11.

Bachelet promised to be a voice for victims. “I have been a political detainee and the daughter of political detainees. I have been a refugee and a physician—including for children who experienced torture and the enforced disappearance of their parents,” she told the 47-member forum in Geneva.

By Stephanie Nebehay