Rights chief Bachelet urges China to review counterterrorism policies

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Rights chief Bachelet urges China to review counterterrorism policies

BEIJING Reuters U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, whose rare visit to China was criticized by rights groups and Western countries, said she urged Beijing to review its counterterrorism policies to ensure they meet international human rights standards.

Bachelet reiterated that her six-day trip, which ended on Saturday and included a visit to the western region of Xinjiang, was not an investigation into China's human rights policies but an opportunity to engage with the government.

Bachelet started her China trip on Monday, the first by a UN Human Rights High Commissioner in 17 years, in the southern city of Guangzhou before heading to Xinjiang.

Her office said last year that Uyghurs in Xinjiang had been unlawfully detained, mistreated and forced to work.

She said during an online press briefing on Saturday that "there are questions and concerns about the application of counterterrorism and deradicalization measures under broad application, particularly the impact on the rights of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities."

China denies all accusations of abuse in Xinjiang.

Bachelet's access was limited as China arranged to allow her to travel in a closed loop isolating people within a virtual bubble to prevent the spread of COVID 19 with no foreign press.

Rights groups and Western countries worry that China will use her trip as an endorsement of its rights record. According to U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price, it was a mistake to agree to a visit under circumstances China initially denied the existence of any detention camps in Xinjiang, but in 2018 said it had set up vocational training centers necessary to curb terrorism, separatism and religious radicalism in the region.

Bachelet raised concerns about the lack of independent judicial oversight on the operation of the centers and the use of force, ill-treatment and severe restrictions on religious practice with the Chinese government.

In 2019, Xinjiang Governor Shohrat Zakir said all trainees had graduated from the media briefing. Bachelet also described the detention of activists, lawyers and journalists in Hong Kong.