UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Chinese leaders on Saturday that he expected authorities to allow U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet to make a “credible visit” to the country, including Xinjiang, the United Nations said.
Guterres met with China’s President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics, according to a U.N. readout of the meetings.
Bachelet has long sought access to Xinjiang to investigate accusations of abuse against ethnic Uyghurs. The issue has soured relations between Beijing and the West, sparking accusations of genocide from Washington and a U.S.-led diplomatic boycott by some countries of the Winter Olympics.
“The Secretary-General … expressed his expectation that the contacts between the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Chinese authorities will allow for a credible visit of the High Commissioner to China, including Xinjiang,” said the U.N. readout of Guterres’ meetings.
Bachelet’s office in Geneva said last month that conversations were underway for a possible trip to the area in northwest China in the first half of the year.
Rights groups accuse China of widescale abuses against Uyghurs and other minority groups, including torture, forced labor and detention of 1 million people in internment camps.
China calls them re-education and training facilities, denies abuses, and says it is combating religious extremism.
Guterres also discussed Afghanistan and climate change – among other issues – during his meetings with Xi and Wang.
“The Secretary-General recognized the important efforts China is making to address climate change but reiterated the appeal for additional efforts to accelerate the transition to the green economy to bridge the emissions gap,” said the U.N. statement.
Guterres traveled to Beijing to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on Friday. The ceremony concluded with the Olympic flame cauldron lit by two young Chinese Olympians, one of them a member of China’s Uyghur minority.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by David Gregorio)