U.N. Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet Praises China, Claims It Has ‘Dismantled’ Concentration Camps

BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 12: Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (R) and Chinese Presiden
Fred Dufour-Pool / Getty Images

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet praised China’s “tremendous achievements” in human rights this weekend and claimed that the Communist Party has “dismantled” all of its concentration camps in the Uyghur region of East Turkistan, concluding her visit to the region.

Bachelet used the Chinese Communist Party’s preferred euphemism for the concentration camps, “Vocational Education and Training Centers” (VETC), and claimed that Party officials allowed her to visit what is now the “Kashgar Experimental School,” an alleged former camp. In her remarks on Saturday as she concluded the trip to China, Bachelet emphasized that her visit was “not an investigation” and that she had traveled to China for exchanges with Party officials to “listen to each other, raise concerns, explore and pave the way for more regular, meaningful interactions in the future.”

Bachelet did not use the word “genocide” to describe the well-documented campaign the Communist Party launched in 2017 of mass internment, torture, slavery, forced sterilization, disappearances, and other human rights atrocities against Uyghurs and other ethnic groups native to East Turkistan, which Beijing refers to by the Mandarin name “Xinjiang.” Her remarks did not address reports revealing that the Chinese government sells concentration camp victims as slaves or documentation that indicates that China is killing as many as 50,000 concentration camp victims to sell their organs, potentially yielding as many as 150,000 organs for wealthy buyers around the world.

Bachelet also notably omitted any knowledge of the “Xinjiang Police Files,” a massive document dump featuring thousands of “mug shots” of concentration camp victims, photos of police training exercises, sensitive law enforcement documents, and speeches in which high-level officials instructed police to “break the lineages” of the people of East Turkistan. The Xinjiang Police Files debuted last week while Bachelet was in China.

The Chinese government later praised Bachelet – the former socialist president of Chile, who used her tenure to make the South American country more dependent on China economically – for refuting the “absolutely ludicrous” evidence that China was engaged in genocide. Chinese state media outlets also criticized the international condemnation from human rights groups and Uyghur leaders following her remarks.

“This visit was not an investigation – official visits by a High Commissioner are by their nature high-profile and simply not conducive to the kind of detailed, methodical, discreet work of an investigative nature,” Bachelet insisted in remarks on Saturday, which she made from the southeastern city of Guangzhou. She repeatedly thanked the Chinese government for its “efforts in making this visit happen” and claimed that her visit was productive because the regime had “agreed to establish a working group to facilitate substantive exchanges and cooperation.”

Bachelet also devoted some of her remarks to praising China’s alleged human rights progress.

“Poverty alleviation and the eradication of extreme poverty, 10 years ahead of its target date, are tremendous achievements of China,” the U.N. leader said. “The introduction of universal health care and [an] almost universal unemployment insurance scheme go a long way in ensuring protection of the right to health and broader social and economic rights. China’s efforts in support of the multilateral 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, both at home and internationally, are also valued.”

China is the world’s worst polluter, increasing its carbon footprint while the rest of the world decreased theirs during the ongoing pandemic the Chinese government caused. China’s “universal health care” is currently facing global condemnation after government officials used their stranglehold on the healthcare system to violently lock down the country’s largest city, Shanghai, sending the military into civilian apartment buildings and splitting babies from their mothers, allegedly to control the Chinese coronavirus.

While Bachelet did not directly address the Uyghur genocide, she claimed that China’s upwards of 1,200 documented concentration camps do not exist, referring to them as “vocational” schools as Beijing does.

“I visited Kashgar prison and the Kashgar Experimental School, a former Vocational Education and Training Centre (VETC), among other places,” Bachelet said. “While I am unable to assess the full scale of the VETCs, I raised with the Government the lack of independent judicial oversight of the operation of the program … [and] allegations of the use of force and ill treatment in institutions,” among other issues listed.

“During my visit, the Government assured me that the VETC system has been dismantled,” Bachelet said without challenging the claim.

Bachelet conceded that she shares “concerns” about China’s genocide of the Uyghur people, which she referred to as a “counter-terrorism” operation – Beijing’s preferred term for the genocide.

The U.N. human rights chief’s remarks followed a “virtual” meeting with dictator Xi Jinping last week in which she similarly “expressed admiration” for China’s atrocious human rights record, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Bachelet’s office did not dispute this representation of her remarks.

Scholar Adrian Zenz, who released the Xinjiang Police Files last week along with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, called Bachelet’s visit and subsequent press conference a “disaster” that “shows [the] effectiveness of China’s strategy of shifting re-education detainees to prisons/high-security facilities, and of desecuritizing/decommissioning many camps.” The latter is a reference to Bachelet’s claim that the concentration camps no longer exist because she visited an allegedly “decommissioned” camp.

“I think we can clearly say that amid already very low expectations, this is significantly worse than what had been feared,” Zenz said of the UN official’s visit.

In contrast, China’s Global Times state propaganda outlet celebrated Bachelet’s visit as a defeat for global human rights activists who have compiled extensive evidence that China is guilty of genocide, referring to the many voices of dismay surrounding the trip as “barefaced attacks on both the U.N. High Commissioner and China.” Citing unspecified “analysts,” the Times insisted that “the allegation of ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is absolutely ludicrous and was fabricated for political purposes.”

The Global Times paraphrased Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu’s celebratory remarks about Bachelet, stating that her visit “provided an opportunity to observe and experience first-hand the real Xinjiang amid many sensational lies told by certain Western countries and anti-China elements to fulfill their motives of using the Xinjiang region to contain China.”

In an editorial on Sunday, the Global Times suggested that evidence of the Uyghur genocide was part of a “conspiracy theory” that Bachelet had allegedly debunked.

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