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UN's Bachelet visits Xinjiang, but China's critics still angry
May 31,2022   By:CGTN
May 31, 2022 -- A few years ago, the United States launched coordinated efforts known as "using Xinjiang to contain China." The strategy was to criticize Beijing's counter-terrorism activities in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in its northwest by claiming that Chinese ethnic minorities, particularly Uygurs and other Muslim communities, were being unfairly punished. The U.S. State Department officially described Beijing's moves to combat terrorism as "acts of genocide" and "crimes against humanity."
 
The U.S. State Department also issued press releases condemning the Chinese government over Xinjiang, and many non-governmental organizations with a long history of promoting anti-China activities across the world followed suit, releasing their own press releases to feign shock over the U.S. State Department's Xinjiang announcement. Inevitably, Western leaders and lawmakers demanded sanctions on China as retaliatory measures.
 
The common consensus among the Western media, foreign policy thought leaders and government officials is that China deserves to be punished, never mind that many of those accusing Beijing of genocide have never visited Xinjiang; nor have they witnessed the alleged atrocities first-hand.
 
They base their allegations on unverified documents, questionable witnesses, as well as so-called Xinjiang experts, such as Adrian Zenz, a self-proclaimed scholar based in Germany who last visited China 14 years ago as a tourist.
 
The "using Xinjiang to contain China" strategy had an impact. Then the instigators took it a step further, demanding that diplomats be allowed to visit Xinjiang. They thought Beijing would refuse the request.
 
Yet China complied, allowing the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to visit from May 23-29. She went to two cities in Xinjiang – Kashgar and Urumqi, the provincial capital – as well as Guangzhou in the south.
 
Bachelet made unsupervised visits to Uygurs, other Chinese Muslims, scholars, experts and government officials. She went to a cotton field and a jail in Kashgar and also held "candid" talks with officials to discuss China's counter-terrorism policies and their treatment of the ethnic communities.
 
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Residents in an alley in the ancient city of Kashgar in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, May 6, 2021. /Xinhua
 
And as expected, the anti-China lobby, who had demanded visits to Xinjiang, have now reversed their argument, denouncing any foreigner who visits the region. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined in, claiming Beijing is "manipulating" Bachelet.
 
Bachelet, a former president of Chile, is not a weak woman who can be brainwashed. She led a virtual press conference with over 120 reporters during her Guangzhou visit on May 29, where she addressed the criticism about her trip and reaffirmed that she had productive conversations with the people she met.
 
"The visit was an opportunity to hold direct discussions with China's most senior leaders on human rights and to listen to each other," the Global Times quoted Bachelet as saying at the presser. She also added that her visit was not a facts-finding mission nor an inspection tour, since "high profile visits are not conducive to investigations."
 
There's an old saying that you can't please everyone. Bachelet would have been criticized either way over her China tour. No UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had visited China since 2005. Bachelet took the right approach. Blinken continues to criticize Beijing over its counter-terrorism policies, but has the U.S. Secretary of State ever visited the region?
 
Blinken is a high-profile person and even if he agrees to go there, how would he succeed as an investigator? He would be accompanied by a huge entourage of secret service agents, reporters, diplomats, aides and curious observers. How could he do better than Bachelet?
 
Washington presumes Beijing is guilty of genocide but criticizes Bachelet for visiting Xinjiang to see the evidence for herself. The UN envoy also accepted China's viewpoint that the counter-terrorism campaign should not be categorized as human rights abuse.
 
China has succeeded in cracking down on terrorists and extremists. There has been no terror-related incident in the region for the past five years. Hence Xinjiang has enjoyed more development, social stability and greater prosperity.
 
Beijing has been very successful in blocking the spread of violent radicalism in the region and deserves praise from the international community. But Washington grumbles and calls the counter-terrorism policy genocide, hoping to harm China's image.
 
But let's imagine the shoe was on the other foot. How would Washington respond under attack by foreign terrorist cells? Well, we already know the answer to that question. In response to the 9/11 terror attacks, the U.S. fought a series of never-ending wars in the Middle East. So who's the real hypocrite here?

By: Thomas W. Pauken II.  Thomas W. Pauken II is the author of US vs China: From Trade War to Reciprocal Deal, a consultant on Asia-Pacific affairs and a geopolitical commentator.