The United Nations says it is holding “serious negotiations” with China for unfettered access to the Xinjiang region to verify reports that ethnic Uyghurs are being persecuted, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres told CBC on Sunday.
A visit by the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet was delayed last month. Bachelet said that reports of arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, sexual violence, and forced labor in Xinjiang necessitated an “independent and comprehensive assessment” free from oversight by China’s ruling communist party.
Bachelet’s visit “is being negotiated at the present moment between the office of the High Commissioner and the Chinese authorities,” Guterres said in an interview aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp’s Rosemary Barton Live show.
“And I hope that they will reach an agreement soon and that the human rights commissioner will be able to visit China without restrictions or limitations,” he added.
The Chinese Communist Party’s sensitivity to criticism of its treatment of the Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities was underscored on Saturday when it announced targeted sanctions against two American religious-rights officials and a Canadian lawmaker who had denounced Beijing’s treatment of them and other minorities.
Activists have expressed skepticism about the prospects for a meaningful visit with unfettered access in China given its long history of supervising external probes, including most recently, the World Health Organization’s visit to ground zero of the pandemic Wuhan.
The Chinese government denies any mistreatment and has continued saying that people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang and the Tibetan region enjoy wide-ranging freedoms.