Michelle Bachelet

UN human rights chief to stand down in autumn

Last week, over 200 organisations urged Michelle Bachelet to resign following her controversial visit to China in May

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has announced that she will not seek a second term.

She made the announcement in her opening address of the summer session of the UN Human Rights Council today. She later followed up with an announcement on Twitter, confirming he return to her native Chile after her term ends.

The news follows a series of controversies stemming from the High Commissioner’s visit to China in May, culminating in a statement last week signed by 231 groups including Free Tibet and other Tibet, Uyghur, Hong Kong and human rights groups, urging her to resign.

Signatories noted that during her closely-managed visit to China, the High Commissioner had not requested access to occupied Tibet, repeatedly used the Chinese government’s terminology when talking about its treatment of Tibetans and Uyghurs and failed to confront the Chinese government about its human rights record, instead repeatedly praising Beijing. They also criticised her for failing to hold adequate consultation with civil society groups and affected communities before her visit, and sitting on a long-awaited report into human rights violations targeting the Uyghur people.

In her address today, Michelle Bachelet stated that her office and the Chinese government had agreed to hold an “annual senior meeting on human rights” and to “continue exchanges” on several human rights topics and specific issues of concern, adding that they working on putting this agreement into action.

On a related note, last Friday, 50 United Nations human rights experts published their own statement addressed to the Chinese government, in which they urged Beijing to fully cooperate with the UN human rights system and allow independent experts into the country with “full access” to carry out human rights investigations.

In the statement, the 50 experts acknowledged the UN High Commissioner’s recent visit  but stressed that the visit did not change the fact that urgent human rights investigations were required, especially in the Uyghur region, Tibet and Hong Kong. The experts noted that they had “received and addressed allegations of significant human rights violations and repression of fundamental freedoms in the country”.

Michelle Bachelet’s term will end on 31 August, by which time a successor is expected to have been announced.

We are Free Tibet, and we stand with Tibetans around the world. For their homeland, for their future and against China’s brutal occupation.