A United Nations team has landed in China ahead of a long-delayed visit by the U.N. human rights chief to Xinjiang, where rights groups and some Western governments allege the Chinese government is committing genocide and serious abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.
The U.N. human rights office said Tuesday its staffers arrived in southern China on Monday to prepare for the visit by High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, expected in May.
"The advance team of five is initially spending time in Guangzhou, where they are quarantining in line with COVID-19 travel requirements," spokeswoman Liz Throssell said.
Bachelet announced in March that her office reached an agreement with China's government that she could visit Xinjiang in far-western China. The rights chief has long talked about hoping to visit Xinjiang, and her office has also been compiling a long-awaited report into alleged human rights abuses in the region.
Almost 200 rights groups have urged Bachelet to release her report, which diplomats said has been ready — or very close to it — for months.
The advance team is in China to make sure that Bachelet would gain "meaningful access" to fully understand the human rights situation in China, Throssell said.
Rights groups and researchers accuse China of locking up more than a million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and members of other minority groups in re-education camps, forced labor, forcing women from the region to undergo contraceptive measures and separating children from incarcerated parents.
The U.S. government has declared that Beijing's policies against the Uyghurs amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity. Legislatures in Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada have done the same.
China denies the allegations and maintains its policies were meant to de-radicalize those influenced by jihadi propaganda following years of violent outbursts against Chinese rule in the region.