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U.N. rights chief decries violations in China's Xinjiang, hopes for visit

Stephanie Nebehay
·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet attends a news conference in Geneva

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Friday that China is restricting basic civil and political freedoms in the name of national security and COVID-19 measures.

"Activists, lawyers and human rights defenders – as well as some foreign nationals – face arbitrary criminal charges, detention or unfair trials," Bachelet told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

More than 600 people in Hong Kong are being investigated for taking part in protests, some under the new national security law imposed by mainland China on the former British colony, she said.

Reports about violations including arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, sexual violence and forced labour in China's Xinjiang region need independent assessment, she added.

Activists and U.N. rights experts have said that at least one million Muslims are detained in camps in the remote western region of Xinjiang. China denies abuses and says its camps provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.

China hit back at the forum on Wednesday at growing criticism by Western powers of its treatment of ethnic minorities in the regions of Xinjiang and Tibet and of citizens in Hong Kong.

"I am confident that through our ongoing dialogue we will find mutually agreeable parameters for my visit to China," Bachelet said about negotiations with Beijing on the terms of a visit.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by John Revill and William Maclean)