China Pushes Back against UN Human Rights Chief on Uighurs: 'Respect Our Sovereignty'
Uighur Muslims in China's Xinjiang province (Photo:

China has called on the United Nation's human rights chief to respect its sovereignty after Michelle Bachelet highlighted "deeply disturbing" allegations of mass detentions of Uighur Muslims in its province of Xinjiang.

On September 10, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet in her opening remarks for the new session, highlighted China's ongoing crackdown on the Uighur community. These were made in her first speech as head of the UN human rights watchdog in Geneva.

She also wanted China to grant access to UN officials to this region to verify reports made by human rights activists. She said, “In light of these reports, we would request the Government to permit access for the Office to all regions of China, and trust we will embark on discussion of these issues.”

Bachelet's request for access came as a Human Rights Watch reported the Turkic-speaking Uighurs in Xinjiang face arbitrary detentions, restrictions on religious practice, and "forced political indoctrination" in a mass security clampdown.

China rejected the latest UN report. China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Tuesday that ‘Bachelet’ should "respect China's sovereignty, fairly and objectively", and "not listen to one-sided information" while carrying out her duties.

China said tough security measures in Xinjiang were necessary to combat "extremism and terrorism" but added it did not target specific ethnic groups or restrict religious freedoms. A United Nations rights panel said last month it had received credible reports that up to one million Uighurs may be held in extra-legal detention in the northwestern province of China, and called for them to be freed.

China’s stand to the Uighurs issue is consistent with its stand-offish stance to outside oversight over its human rights record according to Human Rights Watch. The HRW has noted that China has worked consistently and often aggressively to silence criticism of its human rights record before UN bodies and has taken actions aimed at weakening some of the central mechanisms available in those institutions to advance rights.