Legislators belonging to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) have warned that the Chinese government is likely to use its restrictive COVID-19 measures to prevent the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet from making a meaningful investigation into the alleged human rights abuses against Uyghurs during her visit to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region next week.
In a statement signed by over 40 legislators across 18 countries, the parliamentarians accused the Chinese government of organising a ‘Potemkin-style tour’, risking lasting damage to the credibility of Michelle Bachelet’s office. The legislators highlight that the UN Terms of Reference for such visits specify that the Commissioner should be given freedom of movement, conversations with civil society actors and confidential and unsupervised access to witnesses – all of which could be undermined by both the Chinese government’s crackdown in the region and restrictive COVID-19 measures.
Signatories to the statement include German Green MEP and chair of the European Parliament’s China delegation Reinhard Buetikofer, US Congressman Mike Gallagher, former leader of the UK Conservative Party Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP and former Japanese government minister Ken Saito.
- A copy of the statement and list of signatories is included below.
- Michelle Bachelet will be the first UN human rights chief to visit China since 2005. The visit will include a visit to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where alleged human rights abuses include forced labour, forced sterilisation and the arbitrary detention of at least one million Uyghur Muslims.
- Last year the independent Uyghur Tribunal concluded that the Chinese government is carrying out Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity against the Uyghurs, with the US State Department and parliaments of the UK, Netherlands, Canada and elsewhere supporting this decision.
- The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China is an international cross party group of legislators pushing for democratic countries to take a tougher stance on China. A full list of IPAC members and other information is available at www.ipac.global.
STATEMENT ON THE VISIT OF THE UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS TO THE UYGHUR REGION OF CHINA
We, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), note with profound concern recent developments surrounding the upcoming visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), Michele Bachelet, to the Uyghur Region of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
As the Revised Terms of Reference for Country Visits by Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the UN Human Rights Council make very clear, the UNHCHR should expect the PRC to facilitate: freedom of movement and inquiry, contact with all branches of government, private contact with civil society and media, confidential and unsupervised access to witnesses and other persons of interest, access to detention facilities, and access to all relevant documentary materials, among other guarantees.
The PRC’s restrictive COVID-19 regulations will make these Terms impossible. This fact, together with strong indications that a Potemkin-style tour has been prepared for the UNHCHR by the PRC, make it hard to envisage a scenario where a meaningful visit could possibly be achieved.
The scale and severity of the persecution of Uyghurs and other minorities is exceptionally well documented. Indeed, the High Commissioner herself has prepared a report into the situation which remains unpublished, despite assurances in December 2021 that it would be released “within a few weeks”.
The stakes are therefore very high. Should the High Commissioner fail to obtain the necessary access for a meaningful investigation, the credibility of the office could suffer lasting damage, and the ability for the UNHCHR to secure meaningful future investigations may well be compromised. COVID restrictions must not be deployed as a reason to excuse the PRC for failing to allow a meaningful investigation. IPAC stands ready to act swiftly in case the visit will be turned into a sham by PRC authorities.
Reinhard Buetikofer MEP, Germany
Miriam Lexmann MEP, Slovakia
Michael Brand MdB, Germany
Fabian Molina MP, Switzerland
Fatimir Mediu MP, Albania
Representative Samuel Cogolati, Belgium
Senator Barry Ward, Ireland
Senator Malcom Byrne, Ireland
Žygimantas Pavilionis MP, Lithuania
Senator Pavel Fischer, Czechia
Catalin Tenita MP, Romania
Simon O’Connor MP, New Zealand
Tom van der Lee MP, Netherlands
Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP, United Kingdom
Uffe Elbaek MP, Denmark
Senator Andre Gattolin, France
Guri Melby MP, Norway
Hon. Irwin Cotler, Canada
Baroness Helena Kennedy, United Kingdom
Boris Mijatovic MdB, Germany
Sjoerd Sjoerdsma MP, Netherlands
Rosie Cooper MP, United Kingdom
Senator Erin McGreehan, Ireland
Yasmin Qureshi MP, United Kingdom
Tim Loughton MP, United Kingdom
Siobhain McDonagh MP, United Kingdom
Nicolas Walder MP, Switzerland
David Lega MEP, Sweden
Bardhyl Kollcaku MP, Albania
Lars Adaktusson MP, Sweden
Layla Moran MP, United Kingdom
Nus Ghani MP, United Kingdom
Gyde Jensen MdB, Germany
Senator David Norris, Ireland
Engin Eroglu MEP, Germany
Ingrid Leary MP, New Zealand
Cllr. Ken Saito, Japan
Representative Mike Gallagher, United States