(CNSNews.com) – The Chinese government and state media said Wednesday that U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet during a virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping “expressed admiration for China’s efforts and achievements … in protecting human rights.”
But according to Bachelet’s office, she did not say that.
The incident is the latest controversy in a visit already dogged by criticism over restrictions agreed between Bachelet’s office and her Chinese hosts, as Beijing continues to reject accusations of mass-scale atrocities against minority Muslims in Xinjiang.
After Bachelet’s video call meeting with Xi, the foreign ministry said in an English-language statement – without quoting her directly – that she “expressed admiration for China’s efforts and achievements in eliminating poverty, protecting human rights and realizing economic and social development.”
State-owned China Global Television Network (CGTN) used slightly different wording, saying Bachelet had “acknowledged China’s achievements in eliminating poverty [and] protecting human rights.”
Bachelet’s department in Geneva, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), did not directly accuse the Chinese government of misrepresenting her.
But it implied as much, in an email with the subject line, “Clarification of remarks by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet today in China.”
“In response to widely reported remarks attributed to High Commissioner Bachelet, please find here a link to her actual opening remarks at her meeting with the President of China,” it said.
The transcript that followed contained no reference to Bachelet voicing administration for China’s “efforts and achievements” “in protecting human rights.”
It reads in full:
“I have been committed to undertaking this visit – the first visit by a UN Human Rights High Commissioner to China in 17 years – because for me, it is a priority to engage with the Government of China directly, on human rights issues, domestic, regional and global. For development, peace and security to be sustainable – locally and across borders – human rights have to be at their core.
“China has a crucial rule to play within multilateral institutions in confronting many of the challenges currently facing the world, including threats to international peace and security, instability in the global economic system, inequality, climate change and more. I look forward to deepening our discussions on these and other issues, and hope my Office can accompany efforts to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights, justice and the rule of law for all without exception.”
‘The human rights of the Chinese people are guaranteed like never before’
According to the Chinese government statement on the meeting, Xi had told Bachelet that, “[a]fter decades of strenuous efforts, China has successfully found a path of human rights development in keeping with the trend of the times and China’s national reality.”
“We have been advancing whole-process people’s democracy, promoting legal safeguard for human rights and upholding social equity and justice,” it said. “The Chinese people now enjoy fuller and more extensive and comprehensive democratic rights. The human rights of the Chinese people are guaranteed like never before.”
Xi also told her, according to the readout, that “countries do not need patronizing lecturers; still less should human rights issues be politicized and used as a tool to apply double standards, or as a pretext to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.”
The 862-word statement made no reference to Xinjiang, where CCP officials are accused of subjecting Uyghurs and other minorities to mass incarceration, forced labor, forced sterilization, and other abuses. The U.S. government has determined that atrocities there amount to crimes against humanity and genocide.
At a press briefing in Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin was asked whether Xinjiang was mentioned during the Bachelet-Xi call.
“China has already released the readout on that,” Wang replied. “You may refer to it.”
Wang was also asked to respond to State Department spokesman Ned Price’s assertion on Tuesday that it had been “a mistake” for the OHCHR to agree to the restrictions Beijing placed on Bachelet’s six-day visit.
He said the U.S. had “flip-flopped,” initially pushing for a visit by the high commissioner, but now criticizing it.
“The U.S. is worried that their lies about ‘genocide’ and ‘forced labor’ will be debunked in front of the international community,” Wang charged.
“No matter how many lies the US spreads, they cannot hide the fact that Xinjiang enjoys stability and prosperity, and its people live a happy and fulfilling life.”
Price said on Tuesday, “We think it was a mistake to agree to a visit under these circumstances, where the high commissioner will not be granted the type of unhindered access, free and full access, that would be required to do a complete assessment, and to come back with a full picture of the atrocities, the crimes against humanity, and the genocide ongoing in Xinjiang.”
It took more than three-and-a-half years for the OHCHR and Beijing to reach agreement on a visit, which Bachelet first expressed interest in arranging soon after taking up her post in the fall of 2018.
She has come under criticism from human rights activists and the U.S. government for not releasing a report compiled by the OHCHR on the situation in Xinjiang, despite it being finalized eight months ago.
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