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[Published: Sunday May 22 2022]

 The UN’s human-rights chief is finally about to visit Xinjiang

GENEVA, 22 May. - (ANA) - On the surface, much has changed in the western region of Xinjiang since Michelle Bachelet, the un High Commissioner for Human Rights, first proposed a visit there in 2018. Many of the camps where some 1m Uyghurs and other minorities were “re-educated” in 2017-2019 have been dismantled, writes The Economist. 
This does not mean the situation has improved. Some camps have been transformed into forced labour sites, with the barbed wire taken down and new signs declaring that they are factories. 
Satellite imagery shows that new detention camps have sprung up in remote mountains and deserts, out of sight and hard to reach. Meanwhile, Xinjiang’s formal prison population has grown dramatically. In cities, the soldiers and security checks that conveyed a sense of crisis in 2018 are largely gone. 
Visiting foreign reporters are still followed and harassed, especially if they try to see demolished religious sites or former camps. But in places like Kashgar the minders keep a light touch. 
They want foreigners to stroll through the restored old city, visit the night market and watch videos of young Uyghurs singing upbeat Mandarin songs. That controlled version of Xinjiang is what Ms Bachelet is likely to see when she finally visits China this month, as her office and the Chinese foreign ministry say she will, the first human-rights chief to do so since 2005. Chinese officials say that she is welcome, but only on a “friendly” visit aimed at “exchange and co-operation”, not an investigation. 
That is not the kind of fact-finding mission many had hoped for. Last June more than 40 countries in the UN Human Rights Council called for “unfettered access” to Xinjiang. Activists say that should include free access to detention centres and relevant government documents, freedom of movement, and unsupervised interviews.
Since China will not grant any of these things, more than 200 activist groups are now calling for the trip to be postponed. That is unlikely. An advance team has already quarantined for several weeks in Guangzhou.   - (ANA) -
AB/ANA/22 MAY 2022 — - -

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