On Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping defended his country’s human rights record to the United Nations’ top human rights official, saying that each country should be free to chart its own course.
Xi, who runs the Communist Party, which permits no political opposition and carefully controls speech, chastised countries that lecture others on human rights and politicize the topic, according to him.
According to an online article by state broadcaster CCTV, Xi told UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet in a video conversation that “China has successfully launched on a path of human rights growth that conforms to the trend of the times and meets its own unique conditions.”
Bachelet is in China for a six-day visit that includes trips in Xinjiang, a remote northwest region where the Chinese government is accused of human rights violations and genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic groups. The United States and others have condemned her trip, believing that China will restrict who she may speak to, stage her trip, and exploit it for propaganda purposes.
The Communist Party’s sometimes severe treatment of dissidents, campaigners, and ethnic groups in Tibet and Inner Mongolia was not mentioned in the CCTV documentary.
Xi outlined the Communist Party’s long-held attitude on human rights, arguing that China should forge its own way rather than copying other countries’ patterns, and dismissing foreign criticism as interference in its internal affairs. It also states that improving people’s lives is the most essential human right for emerging countries, citing China’s success in alleviating poverty.
“There is no perfect ‘utopia’ on the topic of human rights,” he was reported as adding. “We don’t need’masters’ who impose their will on other countries, let alone politicize and turn the human rights issue into a tool, applying double standards, and interfering in other countries’ internal affairs under the guise of human rights.”
According to a tweet from Bachelet’s United Nations office, having direct talks with Xi and other Chinese officials on human rights issues and concerns in China and around the world was beneficial.
“It is a goal for me to engage directly with the Chinese government on domestic, regional, and global human rights problems,” she said in her opening remarks at the conference. “Human rights must be at the center of growth, peace, and security – both locally and across borders.”
Bachelet was reported by China’s Foreign Ministry and CCTV as saying she respected China’s efforts and successes on poverty and human rights, but her administration denied this.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday in Washington that the US does not anticipate China to grant Bachelet the access she needs to receive an unfiltered perspective of the Xinjiang human rights situation.
“We believe it was a mistake to agree to a visit under these circumstances,” he said, “because the high commissioner will not be given the type of unrestricted access, free and full access that would be required to conduct a thorough assessment and return with a complete picture of the atrocities, crimes against humanity, and genocide occurring in Xinjiang.”
Bachelet began her journey in Guangzhou, in southeastern China, where she visited Foreign Minister Wang Yi and held a video chat with Vice Minister of Public Security Du Hangwei. Her trip also covers the Xinjiang cities of Kashgar and Urumqi.
She told students at Guangzhou University’s Institute for Human Rights that young people are influencing discourse on topics like equality, climate change, and human rights, and that they are holding governments and businesses accountable for their activities.
“An open civic space where kids can share their ideas and seek change is a vital component for youth to be able to fulfill that role,” she said, according to a United Nations transcript of her speech.