UN rights boss welcome in China, including Xinjiang, says envoy

Security guards stand at the gates of what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Huocheng County in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 3, 2018. — Reuters pic
Security guards stand at the gates of what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Huocheng County in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 3, 2018. — Reuters pic

GENEVA, June 13 — China’s envoy in Geneva said today that he hoped UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet would visit China, including Xinjiang, where he said “education training centres” were helping to stamp out extremism and give people new skills.

China has been condemned internationally for setting up complexes in the remote western region of Xinjiang that UN experts describe as mass detention centres holding more than one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims.

“We hope to see the high commissioner pay a visit to China including a trip to Xinjiang to see by herself ... Seeing is believing,” Chen Xu, China’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told a news conference hosted by the UN correspondents’ association, ACANU.

“The invitation to the high commissioner is always there, we hope to define a time which is convenient to both sides”, he said.

“What is happening in Xinjiang is education training centres help young people, especially young people, to get skills, to be well-equipped for their reintegration into society,” Chen said, adding that “there are no so-called re-education camps”.

Bachelet’s approach was one of “dialogue and cooperation”, he said, contrasting this with that of her predecessor Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. “I think this is the right direction.”

A spokeswoman for Bachelet’s office had no immediate comment.

Bachelet, a former president of Chile who has been UN High Commissioner for Human Rights since August, has repeatedly pushed China to grant the United Nations access to investigate reports of disappearances and arbitrary detentions, particularly of Muslims in Xinjiang. China has previously said it would welcome UN officials if they avoided “interfering in domestic matters”.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng, addressing the UN Human Rights Council last March, defended the complexes in Xinjiang and said the “campuses” would be closed down gradually as extremist ideology was vanquished in the region. — Reuters

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