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230 Rights groups demand resignation of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

8 June 2022

230 Rights groups demand resignation of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Activists slam Michelle Bachelet’s six-day visit for whitewashing repression against Uyghurs, Tibetans, Southern Mongolians, Hong Kongers and others

We, 230 Uyghur, Tibetan, Southern Mongolian, Hong Kong, and Chinese democracy and international human rights advocacy groups, call for the immediate resignation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights after she whitewashed the Chinese government’s human rights atrocities during her recent visit to China. We further call on the UN Secretary General to not propose the renewal of her mandate [1] and demand the High Commissioner immediately release the report on the human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Turkic communities in East Turkistan [Ch: Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region].

During her six-day visit to China, the first by a High Commissioner since 2005, Michelle Bachelet squandered a rare opportunity to promote accountability by failing to address the litany of systematic human rights violations committed by the Chinese authorities. This includes genocide and crimes against humanity in East Turkistan. Bachelet also neglected to offer a single specific recommendation to address the gravity of the human rights crisis [2]. This abject failure to hold the Chinese government accountable for its crimes comes despite an unprecedented call in June 2020, by over 50 UN experts for “decisive measures” to protect fundamental freedoms in China [3].

The High Commissioner legitimized Beijing’s attempt to cover up its crimes by using the Chinese government’s false “counter-terrorism” framing [4] and repeatedly referred to the notorious internment camps by the Chinese government’s term: “Vocational Education and Training Centers” (VETCs). Just days prior, the ‘Xinjiang Police Files’ revealed further incriminating evidence of the mass internment of thousands of Uyghurs and Directives from Beijing to treat detainees like dangerous criminals and to open fire to stop escapees [5]. While world leaders responded by calling for an immediate investigation, Bachelet remained silent. Since 2021, the High Commissioner has also stalled on the commitment to release a report on the human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Turkic communities in East Turkistan. The repeated, open-ended, and unexplained delays call into serious question the credibility of her Office to fulfil its mandate.

During her four year tenure, Bachelet has been entirely silent on the human rights crisis enveloping Tibet and failed to even request access to the occupied country despite no High Commissioner visiting since 1998. She did not visit Tibet on this trip, and when she finally mentioned Tibet during her end-of-visit press conference it was brief and in general terms, failing to take the rare opportunity to critique and address the unprecedented, systematic and escalating attacks taking place on Tibetan language and identity today [6]. She also referred only to the “Tibet Autonomous Region,” – what China refers to as Tibet – ignoring the Tibetan autonomous prefectures and counties in Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu, and Yunnan that make up half of Tibet and are home to more than half of the total Tibetan population [7].

Moreover, the High Commissioner did not visit Hong Kong and failed to condemn the Chinese government’s unrelenting campaign to destroy human rights and democracy in the city, which had escalated since the most recent mass protests broke out in 2019. In her end-of-visit statement, she grossly underplayed the crackdown, calling the arbitrary detention and incarceration of over 1,000 political prisoners under the National Security Law and other alleged crimes only as “deeply worrying”[8]. This is yet another sign of her inexplicable unwillingness to confront Chinese leaders over well-documented and egregious abuses of human rights.

The High Commissioner also made no mention of Southern Mongolia (Ch: Inner Mongolia), despite Chinese authorities engaging in a far-reaching assault on Mongolian identity and the unprecedented mass protests across Southern Mongolia in 2020. No reference was made to China’s so-called “bilingual” education program which recently replaced Mongolian with Chinese as the language of instruction in all elementary and middle schools nor to all the Mongolian herders who have been targeted for fighting policies that are destroying their traditional livelihoods, including China’s illegal land confiscations.

The High Commissioner has wasted a much needed opportunity to meet with top Chinese leaders as she shied away from publicly raising and condemning the widespread torture, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, organ harvesting, and routine persecution of faith communities. Instead, Bachelet lauded the Chinese authorities for making what she called “important legislative and judicial reforms” as well as “improvements for protection of women’s rights.”

Bachelet also naively posed for a photo opportunity with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, who presented her with a book of Xi’s quotations on “human rights”. She furthermore gave praise to China’s commitment to multilateralism, despite widespread evidence that Beijing has routinely sought to silence criticism of its human rights record before UN bodies and weaken UN institutions [9].

The High Commissioner’s end-of-visit statement, attempted to claw back some legitimacy by stating that she “met virtually with a number of civil society organisations.” In doing so, she failed to mention that this was the first time in four years that she agreed to meet with any affected communities despite consistent requests. By holding a two hour virtual meeting a matter of days before her visit, she limited the space and scope of any substantive discussions. The meeting invitation only came after 220 Tibetan, Uyghur, Hong Kong, Southern Mongolian, and Chinese democracy groups demanded the High Commissioner reverse her plans to visit China or risk walking into a propaganda minefield laid out by the Chinese Communist Party [10]; a that fear that has now been materialised.

The failed visit by the High Commissioner has not only worsened the human rights crisis of those living under the Chinese government’s rule, but also severely compromised the integrity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in promoting and protecting human rights globally. An independent, experienced and honest High Commissioner is crucial to ensure truth, justice, and reparations for crimes committed in violation of international law. Michelle Bachelet has repeatedly fallen short in her ability to uphold this vital mandate and it is under such reprehensible conditions that we are calling for her immediate resignation.

Signed by:

Act with HK

Aide aux Refugies Tibetains

Alaskans for Tibet

Alberta Uyghur Association

Amigos de Tibet Colombia

Amigos del Tíbet Chile

Amigos del Tibet El Salvador

Anterrashtriya Bharat – Tibbet Sahyog Samiti

Asociación Cultural Peruano Tibetana

Asociación Cultural Tibetano Costarricense

Association Cognizance Tibet

Association Drôme Ardèche-Tibet

Associazione Italia-Tibet

Australia Tibet Council

Australian Uyghur Association

Australian Uyghur Tangritagh Women’s Association

Bay Area Friends of Tibet

Belgium Uyghur Association

Bharrat Tibbat Samvad Manch, India

Blue Crescent Humanitarian Aid Association

Boston Tibet Network

Briancon05 Urgence Tibet

CADAL

Campaign for Uyghurs

Canada Tibet Committee

Casa del Tibet

Casa Tibet México

Centro De Cultura Tibetana, Brazil

Chi Milk Tea Alliance

Chicago Solidarity with Hong Kong 芝援香港

China Against the Death Penalty

China Aid Association

Circle of Friends

Citizen Power Initiatives for China

Comite de Apoyo al Tibet

Committee of 100 for Tibet

Core Group for Tibetan Cause, India

Czechs Support Tibet

Dawn of Hong Kong

DC4HK (Washingtonians Supporting Hong Kong)

Dialogue China

Dream for Children, Japan

DUQ Ayallar komtiti

Dutch Uyghur human rights foundation

Dutch Uyghur Human Rights Foundation

East Turkestan Press and Media Association

East Turkestan Union in Europe

East Turkestan Union of Muslim Scholars

East Turkistan Association of Canada

East Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association

East Turkistan Entrepreneur Tradesmen and Industrialists Businessmen Association

East Turkistan Human Rights Watch

East Turkistan New Generation Movement

East Turkistan New Generation Movement

East Turkistan Nuzugum Culture and Family Association

East Turkistan Sports and Development Association

East Turkistan Union in Europe

Eastern Turkistan Foundation

EcoTibet Ireland

European East Turkistan Education Association

Finnish Uyghur Culture Centre

Foundation for Universal Responsibility of the Dalai Lama

France-Tibet

Free Indo-Pacific Alliance

Free Tibet

Free Tibet Fukuoka

Friends of Tibet Costa Rica

Friends of Tibet in Finland

Friends of Tibet New Zealand

Furkan Education and Cooperation Association

Grupo de Apoio ao Tibete, Portugal

Hira Education Association

Hoca Ahmet Yesevi Science and lore Foundation

Hong Kong Collaborative Academic Network (HKCAN)

Hong Kong Committee in Norway

Hong Kong Democracy Council

Hong Kong Forum, Los Angeles

Hong Kong International Alliance Brisbane

Hong Kong Liberation Coalition

Hong Kong Professional Network

Hong Kongers in San Francisco Bay Area

Human Rights Network for Tibet and Taiwan

Ilham Tohti Initiative

Ili Meshrep Educational Foundation

India Tibet Friendship Society

Inner Mongolia People’s Party

Institute of China Studies

International Society of Human Rights, Munich

International Tibet Network Secretariat

International Tibet Independence Movement

International Union of East Turkistan Organisations

Isa Yusuf Alptekin Foundation

Israeli Friends of the Tibetan People

Japan Association of Monks for Tibet (Super Sangha)

Japan Uyghur Association

Justice For All

Justice For All Canada

Justice for Uyghurs

Knowledge and Service Solidarity and Cooperation Association

Les Amis du Tibet Belgium

Les Amis du Tibet Luxembourg

Lions Des Neiges Mont Blanc, France

Lungta Association Belgium

Maison des Himalayas

Maison du Tibet – Tibet Info

McMaster Stands With Hong Kong

National Campaign for Tibetan Support, India

National Democratic Party of Tibet

Norwegian Uyghur Committee

Objectif Tibet

Omer Uygur Foundation

Passeport Tibetain

Phagma Drolma-Arya Tara

Public Association of Uyghurs “Ittipak” of the Kyrgyz Republic

RangZen: Movimento Tibete Livre, Brazil

Roof of the World Foundation, Indonesia

Sakya Trinley Ling

Santa Barbara Friends of Tibet

Satuq Bugrakhan Foundation of Science and Civilization

Save Tibet Foundation

Save Tibet, Austria

Shambhala Sangha

Sierra Friends of Tibet

Society for Threatened Peoples International

Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center

Stop Uyghur Genocide

Students for a Free Tibet

Students for a Free Tibet Canada

Students for a Free Tibet Denmark

Students for a Free Tibet France

Students for a Free Tibet India

Students for a Free Tibet Japan

Students for a Free Tibet UK

Support Hong Kong Independence Movement

Svenska Uigur Union

Sweden Uyghur Education Union

Sweden Uyghur Union

Swedish Tibet Committee

Swiss Tibetan Friendship Association

Taiwan Friends of Tibet

Tashi Delek Bordeaux

The Norwegian Tibet Committee

The Youth Liberation Front of Tibet, Mongolia and Turkestan

Tibet Action Group of Western Australia

Tibet Action Institute

Tibet cesky

Tibet Committee of Fairbanks

Tibet Group, Panama

Tibet Initiative Deutschland

Tibet Justice Center

Tibet Lives, India

Tibet Mx

Tíbet Patria Libre, Uruguay

Tibet Rescue Initiative in Africa

Tibet Society

Tibet Society of South Africa

Tibet Solidarity

Tibet Support Committee Denmark

Tibet Support Group Adelaide

Tibet Support Group Ireland

Tibet Support Group Kenya

Tibet Support Group Kiku, Japan

Tibet Support Group Netherlands

Tibetan Association of Germany

Tibetan Association of Ithaca

Tibetan Association of Northern California

Tibetan Association of Philadelphia

Tibetan Association of Washington DC

Tibetan Community Austria

Tibetan Community in Britain

Tibetan Community in Denmark

Tibetan Community in Ireland

Tibetan Community of Italy

Tibetan Community Queensland

Tibetan Community Sweden

Tibetan Community Victoria

Tibetan Cultural Association Quebec

Tibetan Programme of The Other Space Foundation

Tibetan Women’s Association (Central)

Tibetan Youth Association in Europe

Tibetan Youth Congress

Tibetans of Mixed Heritage

Tibetisches Zentrum Hamburg

TIBETmichigan

TSG – Slovenia

Turkish Welfare Association

U.S. Tibet Committee

Uighur Association Victoria Australia

UK Uyghur Community

UNFFT

United Macedonian Diaspora

University of Toronto Hong Kong Public Affairs and Social Service Society

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization

US HongKongers Club

Uyghur Academy

Uyghur Academy Australia

Uyghur Academy Canada

Uyghur Academy Europe

Uyghur Academy Foundation

Uyghur Academy Japan

Uyghur Academy USA

Uyghur American Association

Uyghur Association France

Uyghur Association of Victoria, Australia

Uyghur Association Switzerland

Uyghur Center for Human Rights and Democracy

Uyghur Community in Austria

Uyghur Cultural and Education Union in Germany

Uyghur Human Rights Project

Uyghur Projects Foundation

Uyghur Research Institute

Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project

Uyghur Science and Civilization Research Foundation

Uyghur Science and Ingenuity Foundation

Uyghur Transitional Justice Database

Uyghur Youth Union in Kazakhstan

Uyghurischer Verein Schweiz

Uyghuristan Republican Party

Uygur ilim – Meripet vakfi

Uyhur medeniyet we maarip birliki , Germaniye

Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

Victoria Uyghur Association

Voces Tibet

We The Hongkongers

Western Australian Association for Pan-Asian Democracy

Women of the World, teaming for Tibetans

World League for Freedom and Democracy

World Mongol Federation USA

World Uyghur Congress

World Uyghur Congress Foundation

Editors Notes:

[1] “In accordance with General Assembly resolution 48/141, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and approved by the General Assembly, with due regard to geographical rotation for a fixed term of four years with a possibility of one renewal for another fixed term of four years.”
https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N94/012/56/PDF/N9401256.pdf?OpenElement

[2] OHCHR, ‘ Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet after official visit to China’ 28 May 2022: https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2022/05/statement-un-high-commissioner-human-rights-michelle-bachelet-after-official

[3] OHCHR, ‘UN experts call for decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China’ 26 June 2020: https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2020/06/un-experts-call-decisive-measures-protect-fundamental-freedoms-china?LangID=E&NewsID=26006

[4] OHCHR, ‘Expert: sustained detention is a “dark stain on our collective conscience”’ 27 April 2022:
https://www.ohchr.org/en/stories/2022/04/expert-sustained-detention-dark-stain-our-collective-conscience ; OHCHR, https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=24845

[5] BBC, ‘Xinjiang Police Files: Inside a Chinese internment camp’ 24 May 2022:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-8df450b3-5d6d-4ed8-bdcc-bd99137eadc3
https://www.xinjiangpolicefiles.org/

[6] For example, see Tibet Action Institute, “Separated From Their Families, Hidden From the World: China’s Vast System of Colonial Boarding Schools Inside Tibet,” 2021, pg. 24,
available at: https://s7712.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/2021_ColonialBoardingSchoolReport_Digital.pdf

[7] ‘Tibet’ refers to the three Tibetan provinces of Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang. In the 1960s, the Chinese government split Tibet into new administrative divisions: the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), and Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures within Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces. When the Chinese government references Tibet, it is referring to the TAR

[8] Hong Kong Democracy Council, “Hong Kong Reaches a Grim Milestone: 1,000 Political Prisoners,” 22 May 2022:
https://hkdc.us/political-prisoners-research-report/

[9] Human Rights Watch, ‘The Costs of International Advocacy: China’s Interference in United Nations Human Rights Mechanisms’ September 2017: https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/09/05/costs-international-advocacy/chinas-interference-united-nations-human-rights

[10] Tibet Advocacy Coalition, ‘Over 220 groups urgently demand UN High Commissioner immediately postpone her visit to China‘ 5 May 2022: https://tibetadvocacy.org/over-220-groups-urgently-demand-un-high-commissioner-immediately-postpone-her-visit-to-china/

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