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America seeks ‘unhindered’ access for UN to probe Uighur treatment in China 

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WASHINGTON: US permanent representative to UN has called on China to ensure that a planned visit by UN human rights chief Michele Bachelet includes “unhindered and unsupervised access” to all areas of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region to investigate alleged abuses of Uighur Muslims and other minorities.

Crocker said a credible visit by the UN human rights chief and her team should involve access to “the locations where atrocities and human rights violations and abuses” have been reported.

Any interference in the work of Bachelet’s team would support “propaganda” that denies alleged rights abuses against members of the Muslim Uighur minority in the region and others, Ambassador Sheba Crocker, the US permanent representative to UN institutions in Geneva, said. 

“We call upon the People’s Republic of China to ensure that her visit is accorded unhindered and unsupervised access to all areas of Xinjiang and to private meetings with a diverse range of Uighur individuals and civil society groups,” Crocker said in a statement.

Bachelet announced on Tuesday that she had reached an agreement with China for a long-sought visit, foreseen in May, including a stop in the region. It would be the first visit to China by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights since 2005.

Earlier on Wednesday, China welcomed Bachelet’s visit but warned against politicizing it.

“China welcomes UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s visit to China and the Xinjiang region in May,” said Zhao Lijian, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson.

“The two sides are working on detailed arrangements,” Zhao said, adding that Beijing “opposes some countries politicising the visit,” Chinese public broadcaster CGTN reported.

Activists say around one million Uighurs have been held in mass detention in the remote western region.

China rejects accusations of abuse, describing the camps as vocational centers designed to combat extremism, and in late 2019 it said all people in the camps had “graduated”.

Crocker also urged Bachelet to release “the existing, long-anticipated” report by her office on alleged violations in the region without further delay.

Bachelet, in her speech to the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, made no reference to the report, for which her office began gathering evidence and testimony in late 2018.

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