China defended its much-scrutinized human rights record during a video call with U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet. Bachelet is in the middle of a six-day visit to China.
“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,” Chinese leader Xi Jinping told Bachelet Wednesday.
Bachelet’s trip is an historic one, with her saying Wednesday that it is “the first visit by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to China in 17 years.” The trip includes stops in Xinjiang, a remote northwestern region where the Chinese government has been accused of human rights violations and genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic groups.
“It is a priority to engage with the government of China directly, to see how we can collaborate on human rights issues domestically, regional and global,” Bachelet said Wednesday. “I look forward to deepening our discussions on these or other issues and hope my office can accompany efforts to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights, justice, and the rule of law for all.”
Bachelet’s trip has been criticized by critics of China’s human rights record, including the United States. At his daily briefing Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the U.S. has “no expectation [China] will grant the necessary access required to conduct a complete and unmanipulated assessment of the human rights environment in Xinjiang.”
“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,” Price said Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.