The joint statement of the organisations. Photo: file

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Dharamshala — Activists from Tibet, East Turkistan, Hongkong, Southern Mongolia and Chinese democracy groups urged UN High commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, to reverse the plan to visit China and warn the upcoming visit risks aiding Beijing’s attempts to whitewash repression against Tibetans, Uyghurs, Hongkongers, Southern Mongolians and others.

On May 5, 2022, a coalition of more than 220 Tibetan, Uyghur, Hong Kong, South Mongolian and Chinese democracy groups and organisations called on the High Commissioner to reverse her planned visit and said, “To date, she has not met with any of the affected communities despite multiple requests and the overwhelming evidence of genocide and rampant human rights abuses (including widespread torture and sexual abuse) nor has she met with wider civil society organisations for specific briefings on Beijing’s crackdown.”

“Ms Bachelet has also ignored all offers to meet with survivors from the Uyghur camps, Tibetan former political prisoners or Chinese democracy activists linked to the Tiananmen Square Massacre. She has simultaneously remained silent on the unprecedented statement by over 50 UN experts calling for “urgent” and “decisive measures” to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of those living under Chinese rule,” they added.

“During her time in office, the current High Commissioner has failed to raise any concern about the situation in occupied Tibet, which has not been mentioned as a visit location, despite being ranked as the least free place in the world for the second year in a row. Hong Kong and Southern Mongolia are also missing from her list of visit locations though both places have witnessed historic protests and subsequent crackdowns on human rights and freedom in the past two years,” the joint letter said.

“Securing access to these locations is more imperative than ever given the scale of the crackdown, which has largely taken place behind closed doors. Tibet has been sealed off to her office since 1998, neither East Turkistan, Southern Mongolia nor Hong Kong have ever been visited by a High Commissioner, and China itself has not seen a High Commissioner visit since 2005. As some of the most restricted areas in the world, these locations are desperately in need of independent human rights monitoring and investigation and the Chinese authorities are required to grant the High Commissioner access to them,” the activists said.

“Compounding this failure to do her duty, the High Commissioner has also failed on her commitment from 2021 to release a report on the grave human rights violations targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic communities in East Turkistan [CH: Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region]. To continue to withhold the release of this urgent report ahead of her visit to China raises further concern about her ability to offer robust independent scrutiny during her visit,” they added.

Tibetan, Uyghur, Hongkonger, Southern Mongolian and Chinese communities are urgently calling for crucial guarantees that they expect to be met ahead of Bachelet’s visit, including:

  • Release of the OHCHR report on serious human rights violations in East Turkistan;
  • Assurances of secure meetings with independent civil society organisations, human rights defenders and survivors of China’s human rights abuses including groups in the diaspora, in advance of the visit;
  • Transparency about the measures taken to date to ensure unfettered access to all areas including Tibet, East Turkistan, Southern Mongolia and Hong Kong.

Without any assurances that her office has secured meaningful and unfettered access, the undersigned organisations are calling for an immediate postponement of the trip.

Proceeding with the visit under such ill-negotiated terms and without adequate briefing from those affected by China’s human rights violations, Ms Bachelet risks jeopardising a rare opportunity for independent human rights monitoring and grants Beijing yet another opportunity to further whitewash its repression against Tibetans, Uyghurs, Hong Kongers, Southern Mongolians, Chinese dissidents and others.