Joint Statement: Over 230 Rights groups demand resignation of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Activists slam Michelle Bachelet’s six-day visit for whitewashing repression against Uyghurs, Tibetans, Southern Mongolians, Hong Kongers and others

Joint Statement – For Immediate Release
08 June 2022
Contact: World Uyghur Congress
 www.uyghurcongress.org
0049 (0) 89 5432 1999 or [email protected]

We, over 230 Uyghur, Tibetan, Southern Mongolian, Hong Kong, and Chinese democracy and international human rights advocacy groups, call for the immediate resignation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights after she whitewashed the Chinese government’s human rights atrocities during her recent visit to China. We further call on the UN Secretary General to not propose the renewal of her mandate [1] and demand the High Commissioner immediately release the report on the human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Turkic communities in East Turkistan [Ch: Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region].

During her six-day visit to China, the first by a High Commissioner since 2005, Michelle Bachelet squandered a rare opportunity to promote accountability by failing to address the litany of systematic human rights violations committed by the Chinese authorities. This includes genocide and crimes against humanity in East Turkistan. Bachelet also neglected to offer a single specific recommendation to address the gravity of the human rights crisis [2]. This abject failure to hold the Chinese government accountable for its crimes comes despite an unprecedented call in June 2020, by over 50 UN experts for “decisive measures” to protect fundamental freedoms in China [3].

The High Commissioner legitimized Beijing’s attempt to cover up its crimes by using the Chinese government’s false “counter-terrorism” framing [4] and repeatedly referred to the notorious internment camps by the Chinese government’s term: “Vocational Education and Training Centers” (VETCs). Just days prior, the ‘Xinjiang Police Files’ revealed further incriminating evidence of the mass internment of thousands of Uyghurs and Directives from Beijing to treat detainees like dangerous criminals and to open fire to stop escapees [5]. While world leaders responded by calling for an immediate investigation, Bachelet remained silent. Since 2021, the High Commissioner has also stalled on the commitment to release a report on the human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Turkic communities in East Turkistan. The repeated, open-ended, and unexplained delays call into serious question the credibility of her Office to fulfil its mandate.

During her four year tenure, Bachelet has been entirely silent on the human rights crisis enveloping Tibet and failed to even request access to the occupied country despite no High Commissioner visiting since 1998. She did not visit Tibet on this trip, and when she finally mentioned Tibet during her end-of-visit press conference it was brief and in general terms, failing to take the rare opportunity to critique and address the unprecedented, systematic and escalating attacks taking place on Tibetan language and identity today [6]. She also referred only to the “Tibet Autonomous Region,” – what China refers to as Tibet – ignoring the Tibetan autonomous prefectures and counties in Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu, and Yunnan that make up half of Tibet and are home to more than half of the total Tibetan population [7].

Moreover, the High Commissioner did not visit Hong Kong and failed to condemn the Chinese government’s unrelenting campaign to destroy human rights and democracy in the city, which had escalated since the most recent mass protests broke out in 2019. In her end-of-visit statement, she grossly underplayed the crackdown, calling the arbitrary detention and incarceration of over 1,000 political prisoners under the National Security Law and other alleged crimes only as “deeply worrying”[8]. This is yet another sign of her inexplicable unwillingness to confront Chinese leaders over well-documented and egregious abuses of human rights.

The High Commissioner also made no mention of Southern Mongolia (Ch: Inner Mongolia), despite Chinese authorities engaging in a far-reaching assault on Mongolian identity and the unprecedented mass protests across Southern Mongolia in 2020. No reference was made to China’s so-called “bilingual” education program which recently replaced Mongolian with Chinese as the language of instruction in all elementary and middle schools nor to all the Mongolian herders who have been targeted for fighting policies that are destroying their traditional livelihoods, including China’s illegal land confiscations.

The High Commissioner has wasted a much needed opportunity to meet with top Chinese leaders as she shied away from publicly raising and condemning the widespread torture, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, organ harvesting, and routine persecution of faith communities. Instead, Bachelet lauded the Chinese authorities for making what she called “important legislative and judicial reforms” as well as “improvements for protection of women’s rights.”

Bachelet also naively posed for a photo opportunity with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, who presented her with a book of Xi’s quotations on “human rights”. She furthermore gave praise to China’s commitment to multilateralism, despite widespread evidence that Beijing has routinely sought to silence criticism of its human rights record before UN bodies and weaken UN institutions [9].

The High Commissioner’s end-of-visit statement, attempted to claw back some legitimacy by stating that she “met virtually with a number of civil society organisations.” In doing so, she failed to mention that this was the first time in four years that she agreed to meet with any affected communities despite consistent requests. By holding a two hour virtual meeting a matter of days before her visit, she limited the space and scope of any substantive discussions. The meeting invitation only came after 220 Tibetan, Uyghur, Hong Kong, Southern Mongolian, and Chinese democracy groups demanded the High Commissioner reverse her plans to visit China or risk walking into a propaganda minefield laid out by the Chinese Communist Party [10]; a that fear that has now been materialised.

The failed visit by the High Commissioner has not only worsened the human rights crisis of those living under the Chinese government’s rule, but also severely compromised the integrity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in promoting and protecting human rights globally. An independent, experienced and honest High Commissioner is crucial to ensure truth, justice, and reparations for crimes committed in violation of international law. Michelle Bachelet has repeatedly fallen short in her ability to uphold this vital mandate and it is under such reprehensible conditions that we are calling for her immediate resignation.

Signed by:

Act with HK
Aide aux Refugies Tibetains
Alaskans for Tibet
Alberta Uyghur Association 
Amigos de Tibet Colombia
Amigos del Tíbet Chile
Amigos del Tibet El Salvador
Anterrashtriya Bharat – Tibbet Sahyog Samiti
Asociación Cultural Peruano Tibetana
Asociación Cultural Tibetano Costarricense
Association Cognizance Tibet
Association Drôme Ardèche-Tibet
Associazione Italia-Tibet
Australia Tibet Council
Australian Uyghur Association
Australian Uyghur Tangritagh Women’s Association
Bay Area Friends of Tibet
Belgium Uyghur Association
Bharrat Tibbat Samvad Manch, India
Blue Crescent Humanitarian Aid Association
Boston Tibet Network
Briancon05 Urgence Tibet
CADAL
Campaign for Uyghurs
Canada Tibet Committee
Casa del Tibet
Casa Tibet México
Centro De Cultura Tibetana, Brazil
Chi Milk Tea Alliance
Chicago Solidarity with Hong Kong 芝援香港
China Against the Death Penalty
China Aid Association
Circle of Friends
Citizen Power Initiatives for China
Comite de Apoyo al Tibet
Committee of 100 for Tibet
Core Group for Tibetan Cause, India
Czechs Support Tibet
Dawn of Hong Kong
DC4HK (Washingtonians Supporting Hong Kong)
Dialogue China 
Dream for Children, Japan
DUQ Ayallar komtiti 
Dutch Uyghur human rights foundation
Dutch Uyghur Human Rights Foundation
East Turkestan Press and Media Association
East Turkestan Union in Europe
East Turkestan Union of Muslim Scholars
East Turkistan Association of Canada
East Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association
East Turkistan Entrepreneur Tradesmen and Industrialists Businessmen Association
East Turkistan Human Rights Watch
East Turkistan New Generation Movement
East Turkistan New Generation Movement 
East Turkistan Nuzugum Culture and Family Association
East Turkistan Sports and Development Association
East Turkistan Union in Europe
Eastern Turkistan Foundation
EcoTibet Ireland
European East Turkistan Education Association
Finnish Uyghur Culture Centre
Foundation for Universal Responsibility of the Dalai Lama
France-Tibet
Free Indo-Pacific Alliance
Free Tibet
Free Tibet Fukuoka
Friends of Tibet Costa Rica
Friends of Tibet in Finland
Friends of Tibet New Zealand
Furkan Education and Cooperation Association
Grupo de Apoio ao Tibete, Portugal
Hira Education Association
Hoca Ahmet Yesevi Science and lore Foundation
Hong Kong Collaborative Academic Network (HKCAN)
Hong Kong Committee in Norway
Hong Kong Democracy Council
Hong Kong Forum, Los Angeles
Hong Kong International Alliance Brisbane 
Hong Kong Liberation Coalition
Hong Kong Professional Network 
Hong Kongers in San Francisco Bay Area
Human Rights Network for Tibet and Taiwan
Ilham Tohti Initiative
Ili Meshrep Educational Foundation
India Tibet Friendship Society
Inner Mongolia People’s Party
Institute of China Studies
International Society of Human Rights, Munich
International Tibet Network Secretariat
International Tibet Independence Movement
International Union of East Turkistan Organisations
Isa Yusuf Alptekin Foundation
Israeli Friends of the Tibetan People
Japan Association of Monks for Tibet (Super Sangha)
Japan Uyghur Association
Justice For All Canada 
Justice for Uyghurs
Knowledge and Service Solidarity and Cooperation Association
Les Amis du Tibet Belgium
Les Amis du Tibet Luxembourg
Lions Des Neiges Mont Blanc, France
Lungta Association Belgium
Maison des Himalayas
Maison du Tibet – Tibet Info
McMaster Stands With Hong Kong
National Campaign for Tibetan Support, India
National Democratic Party of Tibet
Norwegian Uyghur Committee
Objectif Tibet
Omer Uygur Foundation
Passeport Tibetain
Phagma Drolma-Arya Tara
Public Association of Uyghurs “Ittipak” of the Kyrgyz Republic
RangZen:Movimento Tibete Livre, Brazil
Roof of the World Foundation, Indonesia
Sakya Trinley Ling
Santa Barbara Friends of Tibet
Satuq Bugrakhan Foundation of Science and Civilization
Save Tibet Foundation
Save Tibet, Austria
Shambhala Sangha
Sierra Friends of Tibet
Society for Threatened Peoples International
Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center
Stop Uyghur Genocide
Students for a Free Tibet
Students for a Free Tibet Canada
Students for a Free Tibet Denmark
Students for a Free Tibet France
Students for a Free Tibet India
Students for a Free Tibet Japan
Students for a Free Tibet UK
Support Hong Kong Independence Movement
Svenska Uigur Union 
Sweden Uyghur Education Union
Sweden Uyghur Union
Swedish Tibet Committee
Swiss Tibetan Friendship Association
Taiwan Friends of Tibet
Tashi Delek Bordeaux
The Norwegian Tibet Committee
The Youth Liberation Front of Tibet, Mongolia and Turkestan
Tibet Action Group of Western Australia
Tibet Action Institute
Tibet cesky
Tibet Committee of Fairbanks
Tibet Group, Panama
Tibet Initiative Deutschland
Tibet Justice Center
Tibet Lives, India
Tibet Mx
Tíbet Patria Libre, Uruguay
Tibet Rescue Initiative in Africa
Tibet Society
Tibet Society of South Africa
Tibet Solidarity
Tibet Support Committee Denmark
Tibet Support Group Adelaide
Tibet Support Group Ireland
Tibet Support Group Kenya
Tibet Support Group Kiku, Japan
Tibet Support Group Netherlands
Tibetan Association of Germany
Tibetan Association of Ithaca
Tibetan Association of Northern California
Tibetan Association of Philadelphia
Tibetan Association of Washington DC
Tibetan Community Austria
Tibetan Community in Britain
Tibetan Community in Denmark
Tibetan Community in Ireland
Tibetan Community of Italy
Tibetan Community Queensland
Tibetan Community Sweden
Tibetan Community Victoria
Tibetan Cultural Association Quebec
Tibetan Programme of The Other Space Foundation
Tibetan Women’s Association (Central)
Tibetan Youth Association in Europe
Tibetan Youth Congress
Tibetans of Mixed Heritage
Tibetisches Zentrum Hamburg
TIBETmichigan
TSG – Slovenia
Turkish Welfare Association
U.S. Tibet Committee
Uighur Association Victoria Australia
UK Uyghur Community
UNFFT
United Macedonian Diaspora
University of Toronto Hong Kong Public Affairs and Social Service Society
Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization 
US HongKongers Club
Uyghur Academy
Uyghur Academy Australia
Uyghur Academy Canada
Uyghur Academy Europe
Uyghur Academy Foundation
Uyghur Academy Japan
Uyghur Academy USA
Uyghur American Association
Uyghur Association France
Uyghur Association of Victoria, Australia 
Uyghur Association Switzerland
Uyghur Center for Human Rights and Democracy
Uyghur Community in Austria
Uyghur Cultural and Education Union in Germany
Uyghur Human Rights Project
Uyghur Projects Foundation
Uyghur Research Institute
Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project
Uyghur Science and Civilization Research Foundation
Uyghur Science and Ingenuity Foundation
Uyghur Transitional Justice Database
Uyghur Youth Union in Kazakhstan
Uyghurischer Verein Schweiz 
Uyghuristan Republican Party 
Uygur ilim – Meripet vakfi
Uyhur medeniyet we maarip birliki , Germaniye
Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation
Victoria Uyghur Association
Voces Tibet
We The Hongkongers
Western Australian Association for Pan-Asian Democracy
Women of the World, teaming for Tibetans
World League for Freedom and Democracy
World Mongol Federation USA
World Uyghur Congress
World Uyghur Congress Foundation

Editors Notes:

[1]  “In accordance with General Assembly resolution 48/141, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and approved by the General Assembly, with due regard to geographical rotation for a fixed term of four years with a possibility of one renewal for another fixed term of four years.” https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N94/012/56/PDF/N9401256.pdf?OpenElement

[2] OHCHR, ‘ Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet after official visit to China’ 28 May 2022: https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2022/05/statement-un-high-commissioner-human-rights-michelle-bachelet-after-official

[3] OHCHR, ‘UN experts call for decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China’ 26 June 2020: https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2020/06/un-experts-call-decisive-measures-protect-fundamental-freedoms-china?LangID=E&NewsID=26006

[4] OHCHR, ‘Expert: sustained detention is a “dark stain on our collective conscience”’ 27 April 2022: https://www.ohchr.org/en/stories/2022/04/expert-sustained-detention-dark-stain-our-collective-conscience ; OHCHR, https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=24845

[5] BBC, ‘Xinjiang Police Files: Inside a Chinese internment camp’ 24 May 2022: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-8df450b3-5d6d-4ed8-bdcc-bd99137eadc3 ; https://www.xinjiangpolicefiles.org/

[6] For example, see Tibet Action Institute, “Separated From Their Families, Hidden From the World: China’s Vast System of Colonial Boarding Schools Inside Tibet,” 2021, pg. 24, available at: https://s7712.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/2021_ColonialBoardingSchoolReport_Digital.pdf

[7]  Tibet’ refers to the three Tibetan provinces of Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang. In the 1960s, the Chinese government split Tibet into new administrative divisions: the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), and Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures within Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces. When the Chinese government references Tibet, it is referring to the TAR.

[8] Hong Kong Democracy Council, “Hong Kong Reaches a Grim Milestone: 1,000 Political Prisoners,” 22 May 2022:
https://hkdc.us/political-prisoners-research-report/

[9] Human Rights Watch, ‘The Costs of International Advocacy: China’s Interference in United Nations Human Rights Mechanisms’ September 2017: https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/09/05/costs-international-advocacy/chinas-interference-united-nations-human-rights

[10] Tibet Advocacy Coalition, ‘Over 220 groups urgently demand UN High Commissioner immediately postpone her visit to China‘ 5 May 2022: ​​https://tibetadvocacy.org/over-220-groups-urgently-demand-un-high-commissioner-immediately-postpone-her-visit-to-china/