The UN head of rights faces a request to step down after visiting China

Dozens of human rights groups demanded the resignation of UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday, accusing them of “whitewashing” Beijing’s “atrocities” during her trip to China last month.
More than 230 groups, many of them defenders of the rights of Uighurs, Tibetans and Hongkongers, signed a joint declaration calling for “the immediate resignation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights”.
The signatories, which included some national and local chapters of the same groups, also urged UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to refrain from proposing a second term when his term expires at the end of August.

Ms. Bachelet faced widespread criticism for not coming out with greater force against Chinese abuse during the long-planned trip, which took her to the far west region of Xinjiang, where China is alleged to have detained over one million. of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, as well as forced sterilization of women and forced labor.


The United States has labeled China’s actions in Xinjiang as “genocide” and “crimes against humanity,” vehemently denied allegations by Beijing that its crackdown on security in the region was a necessary response to extremism.
Wednesday’s statement said Ms. Bachelet had “squandered a rare opportunity to promote accountability by not addressing the litany of systematic human rights violations committed by Chinese authorities.”
Instead, they said, “It whitened the Chinese government’s human rights atrocities” and “legitimized Beijing’s attempt to cover up its crimes using the Chinese government’s false ‘counter-terrorism’ frame.”

They also stated that they repeatedly referred to detention camps in Xinjiang with the Chinese government’s preferred term: “vocational education and training centers”.


In particular, they complained that so far it has not published a report on the situation of rights in China, completed last year, despite increasing requests to make it public.
“The repeated, indeterminate and inexplicable delays seriously question the credibility of his office in fulfilling his mandate,” the note read.
Petitioners said Ms Bachelet had been “completely silent on the human rights crisis enveloping Tibet” during her four years in office and “grossly devalued the repression” of Hong Kong.

“The failed visit by the High Commissioner not only aggravated the human rights crisis of those living under the Chinese government, but also seriously undermined the integrity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the promotion and protection of human rights globally, “the statement said.


Although no major international human rights group signed the statement on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch told AFP it shared the signatories’ frustration.
“When a government committing heinous crimes praises his visit, and Uighurs and others who are abused feel betrayed and demand his resignation, it is a clear indication that Bachelet has failed in his duty as High Commissioner,” John Fisher, Deputy Director global advocacy of HRW, he said in an email.
The UN rights chief, said, “should work to rebuild this shattered trust by immediately publishing his long-awaited report on abuses in Xinjiang and taking concrete steps to identify missing persons and detainees and trying to reunite them with their loved ones.” .

Ms. Bachelet is also expected to face significant scrutiny by states during her trip to China during next week’s session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.