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UN report on human rights not before Olympics

The United Nations (UN) will not release its much-awaited report on the human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang before the Beijing Winter Olympics (February 4-20). In mid-December, Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN legal office, announced that the report was expected “in a few weeks”. Now he told journalists on Friday that it was “clear that he will not appear before the start of the Olympic Games”.

Colville, meanwhile, has denied rumors that the report would be shelved indefinitely. “I don’t know exactly where we are now, but I know we’re in the final stages,” he said.

Colville’s comments also referred to a report by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper. The latter had indicated that Beijing had agreed to a long-planned visit by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet to Xinjiang after the Olympics ended, in exchange for the government expecting the UN to delay the release of her report. Colville called this assessment “inaccurate in our opinion”.

The report and Bachelet’s visit are “separate” issues. “There is still discussion about a possible visit in the first half of this year,” said Colville. “The parameters of this visit are still under discussion.” So far, the UN has not been assured of the “reasonable and unrestricted access” that it had wished for. The visit will not take place before the games, the spokesman continued.

“From our side, it is important that such a visit is meaningful, with uncontrolled access to a wide range of civil society actors and venues, and some level of engagement from government officials,” Colville said. Meanwhile, China renewed its long-standing invitation on Friday. Bachelet is welcome “to come to China and visit Xinjiang,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

The Chinese government has been accused of barracking the Uyghur Muslim minority in re-education camps and using forced labor in the Xinjiang region of northwest China. Human rights organizations and the USA speak of genocide.

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