Uyghurs have asked UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet to avoid falling victim to a public relations gimmick by asking tough questions in Xinjiang. Bachelet’s six-day tour has entered a dangerous new phase with Tuesday and Wednesday trips to the cities of Urumqi and Kashgar in the isolated province of Xinjiang.
Both cities’ outskirts are studded with what appear to be prison camps, part of a huge network of newly built institutions that runs across the distant region. Urumqi, the regional capital and home to 4 million people, has a substantial Uyghur community. It also houses major government departments suspected of organizing China’s widespread crackdown.
Meanwhile, Kashgar, a 700,000-person Uyghur heartland city, is an old Silk Road center that has also been aggressively targeted by Beijing’s assault. China’s governing communist party has long been accused of imprisoning over a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities as part of a multi-year security crackdown. The United States has declared this to be ‘genocide’. China, on the other hand, has categorically disputed the charges, dubbing them ‘the lie of the century’.
Campaigners are concerned that Chinese officials would prevent Bachelet from conducting a thorough investigation into alleged human rights breaches, instead of handing her a stage-managed tour with restricted access. The United States has voiced grave worry that she has not obtained guarantees about what she will see, claiming that she would not receive an ‘unbiased’ evaluation of China’s human rights situation.
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