Free Tibet has joined 230 other rights groups in calling for the resignation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Signatories include Tibetan, Hong Kong, Southern Mongolian, Uyghur, Chinese democracy and international human rights advocacy groups.
The demand follows a trip to China by the High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet in May, despite warnings from human rights groups that the visit would be treated as a propaganda opportunity by the Chinese government.
In the statement, the 231 groups point out that Michelle Bachelet failed to adequately consult affected communities before her six-day visit, had previously made no mention of Tibet in her four-year tenure as High Commissioner and excluded occupied Tibet from her planned visit.
Praise and whitewashing
When the visit took place, Bachelet repeatedly used the Chinese government’s version of events, for example, by referring to mass internment camps where millions of Uyghurs have been held as “Vocational Education and Training Centres” and by referring to the Chinese government’s policies towards the Uyghur people, which have been recognised by several governments as genocide, as “counter-terrorism”. She also praised the Chinese government on several occasions for its commitment to multilateralism, poverty alleviation and judicial reforms, while largely failing to challenge the Chinese government on its rights record or even make any recommendations on how it could address key concerns.
The visit to China, which Bachelet stated was not an investigation, was the first by a United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights since Mary Robinson visited in 2005. She had previously travelled to Tibet in 1998. Free Tibet and other allies have repeatedly pushed for UN human rights experts to be granted access to the People’s Republic of China and occupied Tibet, with free and unfettered access.
Tibet ignored by high commissioner
Prior to Michelle Bachelet’s visit, Tibet groups promoted a petition, demanding that the High Commissioner speak out against human rights abuses in Tibet, most notably regarding the recent discovery that over 800,000 Tibetan children have been separated from their families and placed in a boarding school system that subjects them to intense political indoctrination. Nearly 20,000 people signed the action, but this topic was not raised during the High Commissioner’s time in China.
The statement ends by asserting that Michelle Bachelet’s visit was counter-productive, saying: “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.“
In addition to calling on Michelle Bachelet to immediately resign, the groups have called on the UN Secretary General not to renew her mandate and have demanded the release of a long-awaited report on human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in East Turkestan.