《TAIPEI TIMES》 UN envoy defends China trip; Berlin’s concerns affect VW
A still image taken from a handout video made available by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights （OHCHR） shows UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet speaking to journalists during a virtual press conference in Guangzhou, China, yesterday. Photo: EPA-EFE
/ AFP and REUTERS, BEIJING and BERLIN
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet yesterday said her contentious visit to China was “not an investigation,” and insisted she had unsupervised access during meetings in Xinjiang, where Beijing is accused of widespread human rights abuses.
Bachelet’s long-planned trip this week has taken her to the far-western region, where Beijing is accused of the detention of more than 1 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, forced sterilization of women and coerced labor.
Bachelet has come under fire from rights groups and Uighurs overseas, who say she has stumbled into a six-day Chinese Communist Party propaganda tour.
Speaking at the end of her trip while still in China, Bachelet framed her visit as a chance for her to speak with “candor” to Chinese authorities, as well as civil society groups and academics.
“This visit was not an investigation,” she told reporters, later insisting she had “unsupervised” access to sources the UN had arranged to meet in Xinjiang.
It is the first trip to China by the UN’s top rights envoy in 17 years and comes after painstaking negotiations over the conditions of her visit.
Meanwhile, the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action has refused to provide automaker Volkswagen with guarantees to cover new investments in China because of concerns over human rights violations in the Xinjiang region, Der Spiegel reported on Friday.
The ministry said it had turned down four applications from a company over human rights concerns in Xinjiang, but declined to name the company.
Der Spiegel said, without naming sources, that Volkswagen was the company in question.
“The human rights situation in Xinjiang has become worse in recent years and involves forced labor and mass internment of Uighurs,” the ministry said. “The German government has therefore decided not to give guarantees for projects in China that are 1） in Xinjiang or 2） have business ties to entities operating there.”
Via a joint venture with China’s SAIC Motor, Volkswagen has a plant in Urumqi, in the Xinjiang region, where western countries and rights organizations say ethnic Uighurs face torture and detention.
A Volkswagen spokesperson said that the company had submitted applications for investment guarantees in China, adding that it had not yet received an official decision from the ministry.
The Volkswagen spokesperson said the applications were not for direct investments in the group’s Xinjiang plant or anywhere near it, but that it could not be ruled out that a product made at a factory elsewhere in the country could end up in the region.