Saturday, February 24

Michelle Bachelet’s controversial tour to the Chinese region of Xinjiang

  • The look of the correspondent Uyghurs in China: 380 internment camps and thousands of mosques destroyed in three years
  • repression Uyghurs in China: from re-education camps to “forced labor” in factories that produce for Nike or Apple

The day China presented its Winter Olympics to the world, there were two big spotlights pointing in opposite directions. One looked up, at the box of authorities of the bird’s nest, as the Beijing National Stadium is known. There was the host, President Xi Jinping, accompanied by his Russian colleague, Vladimir Putin. That February 4, it was rumored that Putin had promised Xi that he would not attack Ukraine until the end of the sporting event, as it happened. The other focus was lower down, in the cauldron, where a cross-country skier named Dinigeer Yilamujiang was the last bearer of the Olympic flame.

It was no coincidence that Dinigeer, a young 20-year-old Uyghur, was chosen to star in the highlight of the ceremony. The Games had begun amid the noise of a US-led diplomatic boycott over China’s documented crackdown on the Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region, where Dinigeer was born.

“Beijing has used the athlete as a political puppet,” Kamaltrk Yalqun, the first Uyghur torchbearer during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, wrote on Twitter. his father, Yalqun Rozi, a publisher of books on Uyghur literature, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of subversion.

A day after the opening ceremony of the Winter Games, Xi Jinping met with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who asked the Chinese leader to allow a delegation from the international body to travel to Xinjiang for a kind of inspection. on human rights. Xi accepted the proposal under conditions that never transpired. Just before that meeting, some international organizations accused Guterres of stopping a report that the UN was about to post about abuses of Xinjiang Uyghurs.

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The report still does not see the light. But a UN delegation will visit the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region this week, a vast territory in northeastern China of deserts and mountains four times larger than Spain. Leading a trip that will last six days will be the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who lands this Monday in Guangzhou, in southern China, and will visit the cities of Kashgar and Urumqi, the regional capital, in Xinjiang.

Bachelet had been asking for an unrestricted trip for some time in order to investigate the many allegations of abuse. For three years Beijing has been organizing trips to Xinjiang for foreign correspondents where they are shown a kind of amusement park with Uyghurs who sing, dance and process their religion with total happiness and freedom. The journalist can choose to travel to the region on his own, as EL MUNDO did last year, but upon arrival he faces continuous and undisguised monitoring by state officials and knows that trying to obtain any testimony means putting the journalist in danger. the person who agrees to speak.

Xinjiang is the province in which many international reports have identified dozens of re-education camps, which China calls “vocational training centers”where more than a million Uyghurs -almost 10% of the Muslim minority living in the region- would have ended up against their will under the premise of ending religious extremism after two decades of attacks.

The accusations of Muslims who were in those centers, of journalistic investigations, reports of international experts and associations, as well as internal leaks of the Chinese Government, go much further: forced labor, destruction of mosques, forced sterilizations and torture.

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After the date of Bachelet’s trip to China was made public, the first in 17 years by a UN Human Rights chief, the United States was very critical and expressed concern about all the restrictions to which the international mission would be subject.


“The High Commissioner’s continued silence in the face of indisputable evidence of atrocities in Xinjiang is deeply troubling, particularly as she is and should be the leading voice on human rights,” said Ned Price, spokesman for the US State Department. It happened that last year he used the term genocide to describe China’s crackdown on the Uyghurs.

It’s a challenge to credibility. that the Chinese government allow the high commissioner to see something they don’t want her to see, or allow human rights defenders, victims and their families to speak with her safely, without supervision and without fear of reprisal,” Sophie Richardson, director of Human Rights Watch in China, also thinks.

Over the weekend, a statement signed by 40 politicians from 18 countries addressed to Bachelet came out., who was warned that he risks causing lasting damage to his office’s credibility if he goes ahead with the visit to Xinjiang. From the office of the high commissioner, they assure this newspaper that Beijing has promised that Bachelet and his team will have freedom of movement and will be able to interview witnesses without supervision.

“If we don’t let the UN mission come, they will say that it is because we are a dictatorship that has something to hide. And if we open the gates of Xinjiang to them, they will say that the Uyghurs they talk to are puppets that China has put up to make us laugh.” speak well of the government. The anti-Chinese discourse is so accepted in the West that, whatever we do, we will always be the bad guys.“Defends an official from the Beijing Foreign Ministry.

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A wave of attacks led Peking to take complete control of Xinjiang to put an end to the separatist forces, led according to the Chinese government by organizations such as the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, considered a terrorist group by the UN itself. As of 2014, the region became one of the largest video surveillance outposts in the world. Then the complaints of victims about the internment camps or the destruction of the Uyghur identity began, while in Beijing they defended that all their measures were focused on fighting extremism and promoting the development of a key region on the commercial route to Central Asia. .

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