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New UN Rights Chief Takes on China, Other Powers

New United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, September 10, 2018. (REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)
New UN Rights Chief Takes on China, Other Powers in First Speech
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United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has called on China to accept observers in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Bachelet made the request on Monday.

Her appeal came as Human Rights Watch released a report on the area’s Turkic, mostly Uyghur minority population. The group's report says that Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang face unjustified detention, restrictions on religious activities and “forced political indoctrination” as part of a security campaign by China’s government.

A UN rights group said last month it had received reports that up to one million Uighurs may be held in extra-legal re-education camps in far western China. The group called for their release.

China has rejected the claims of internment camps. It accuses outsiders of causing unrest in the area.

Bachelet is Chile’s former president. This was her first speech to the UN Human Rights Council. She spoke to the council’s 47-members in Geneva, Switzerland.

Bachelet said the UN rights group had shown that Uighurs and other Muslims are being detained in camps across Xinjiang.

Bachelet called on China’s government to ease restrictions on her and her office’s team. Bachelet added that she expects discussions with Chinese officials to begin soon.

There was no immediate comment from the Chinese delegation to the Human Rights Council.

Bachelet promised to speak up for victims. She said, “I have been a political detainee and the daughter of political detainees. I have been a refugee and a physician – including for children who experienced torture and the enforced disappearance of their parents.”

In her speech, Bachelet also spoke about children of migrants seeking to enter the United States. She expressed concern that 500 migrant children seized by the U.S. government have yet to be reunited with their parents.

She also criticized the government’s announcement last week that it would withdraw from a court agreement to limit the detention of migrant children to 20 days.

Bachelet also spoke about the violence in Yemen. She urged the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen to show more openness in its rules of engagement. She said those who kill civilians should be held responsible for their actions. Many children were killed in an air strike on a bus in Saada last month.

Independent rights investigators reported last month that some coalition air strikes in Yemen may be considered as war crimes.

The investigators gave Bachelet a list of suspects linked to international crimes in the fighting, she said.

Bachelet also said she was worried that Saudi Arabia seemed to pardon members of its military who may have carried out human rights violations.

The Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

indoctrination – n. teaching someone to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs

internment – n. the act of detaining of jailing someone

engagement – n. a fight between military forces