Chinese leader Xi Jinping defends record to UN human rights chief: ‘We don’t need masters’

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China is working on its own human rights record and doesn’t need “masters” who dictate terms, president Xi Jinping told UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday.

Ms Bachelet is in China this week for the first UN visit of its kind in 17 years and Mr Xi was quick to criticise countries that lecture others on human rights and allegedly politicise the issue.

“Through long-term and persistent hard work, China has successfully embarked on a path of human rights development that conforms to the trend of the times and suits its own national conditions,” the president told Ms Bachelet, adding that developing countries have to focus primarily on the right to subsistence and development above other types of human rights.

He added: “Deviating from reality and copying wholesale the institutional model of other countries will not only fit badly with the local conditions, but also bring disastrous consequences.

Though he didn’t name any countries specifically, it is assumed he was referring to the US and its western allies.

“We don’t need ‘masters’ that dictate to other countries, let alone politicising and turning the human rights issue into a tool, practising double standards and interference in the internal affairs of other countries under the pretext of human rights,” he said.

He also presented the Communist Party’s position on human rights to back China’s right to find its own and not copy the models of other nations. The position also outlaws criticism from external forces as “interference in domestic affairs”.

Ms Bachelet said she admired China’s efforts and accolades in “eradicating poverty, protecting human rights and achieving economic and social development”, according to China’s state-owned media.

Her visit is due to focus on allegations of human rights abuses against Muslims in Xinjiang. Human rights groups have for years been accusing China of systemically oppressing Uyghurs, an ethnic Muslim minority in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Concerns have been raised about widespread abuses, including mass incarceration, forced labour, torture and sexual assault of more than a million Uyghurs in detention centres in the region.

China has denied these allegations of abuse, and after initially denying the existence of a network of camps in the region, now describes them as voluntary re-education centres.

The start of Ms Bachelet’s visit coincided with the release on Tuesday of a major new cache of documents relating to the involuntary detention of Uyghurs.

Critics have raised concerns that the visit would be used as propaganda by the Chinese government and may not yield any significant gains. Officials and analysts say China will control all interactions of the UN officials and stage-manage Ms Bachelet’s trip.

China’s foreign ministry has snubbed Ms Bachelet’s request for complete access and said that the visit will be carried out in a “closed loop”, which could mean that the isolation guidelines of her interaction will be managed by Beijing along the lines of Covid-19 protocols.

Panning China for granting limited access to the UN official, US state department spokesperson Ned Price said that it was “a mistake” to agree to a visit under such circumstances.

“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,” he said.

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