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China says UN rights chief 'always' welcome in Xinjiang

China says UN rights chief 'always' welcome in Xinjiang

The destruction of dozens of mosques in Xinjiang highlights the pressure Uighurs and other ethnic minorities face in the heavily policed region AFP/GREG BAKER

GENEVA: China said on Thursday (Jun 13) that the UN human rights chief had an open invitation to visit Xinjiang, a region where activists say some one million mostly Muslim minorities are held in internment camps.

Beijing's new ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Chen Xu, reiterated the government's denial of the existence of camps there, insisting the region had "vocational education training", especially for youth vulnerable to extremism.

Chen added that he hoped the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, would "pay a visit" to the region.

"Seeing is believing," Chen told reporters. "The invitation to the high commissioner is always there and we hope that we can find a time which is convenient to both sides."

Bachelet said in March that she had not yet been given the green light by China for a fact-finding mission to Xinjiang following a request made in December.

On Thursday, Bachelet's spokeswoman Marta Hurtado told AFP that "the high commissioner has been invited to visit China" and that she met with Chen this week.

"We are continuing to discuss with the government for full access," Hurtado said in an email.

China has come under increasing global scrutiny over its treatment of ethnic Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking minorities in Xinjiang.

Beijing has defended its security crackdown, describing the "vocational education centres" as necessary to steer people away from religious extremism, terrorism and separatism.

Chen said that declining unrest in the region proved the effectiveness of China's "preemptive, preventive measures."

Beijing has previously said it would welcome UN officials to Xinjiang with the condition that they stay out of the country's internal affairs.

But the rights chief typically only undertakes national visits provided the host government offers guarantees on certain conditions, included unfettered access to key sites and the right to speak with activists.

Source: AFP/aa/ec


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