China welcomes UN visit to Xinjiang, but opposes investigation


China would welcome a United Nations visit to Xinjiang Autonomous Region, but the country is opposed to an “investigation with a presumption of guilt,” a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry said.

On CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live Sunday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told host Rosemary Barton that the UN is in negotiations with Beijing to have the UN High Commissioner visit the region, where Canada and several countries have accused China of carrying out a genocide against the Uyghur minority.

The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said last month that reports of arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, sexual violence and forced labour in Xinjiang necessitated a thorough and independent assessment.

At a news briefing in Beijing Monday, Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters that the Chinese government would welcome a visit, and confirmed that the UN and China are in talks — but stopped short of inviting an unrestricted investigation.

China says visit shouldn’t be an investigation

“The purpose of the visit is to promote exchanges and cooperation between the two sides, not to conduct a so-called ‘investigation’ with a presumption of guilt,” he said in response to a question from Agence France-Presse. “At the same time, we oppose the use of this matter for political manipulation to exert pressure on China.”

In response to a follow up question, Zhao said: “a few Western countries” were using the potential of a UN visit to Xinjiang to “engage in political manipulation and to put pressure on China.”

While Zhao did not specify which countries he was referring to, his remarks come as Canada, the U.K., the European Union and the United States imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials last week over what they say are human rights abuses taking place in Xinjiang.

WATCH | Human rights need to be respected, Secretary General Antonio Guterres says:

In an exclusive interview with CBC News chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says the United Nations is engaged in a “serious negotiation” with China about granting UN officials access to China’s Xinjiang province to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in the region against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. Guterres also calls on Beijing to respect the will of the people of Hong Kong. Watch Rosemary Barton Live on Sunday at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT/11:30 a.m. NT on CBC News Network and CBC Gem. 4:29

China retaliated Saturday when it announced targeted sanctions against Ontario Conservative MP Michael Chong, who is also the shadow minister of foreign affairs, and the House of Commons subcommittee on international human rights, which had denounced Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs and other minorities.

Xu Guixiang, a spokesman for the regional government of Xinjiang, said on Monday that Canada — along with the United States, Britain, and the European Union — are engaging in political manipulation to destabilize China with the sanctions.

He described the allegations as “misconduct” that goes against “international efforts to punish genocide crimes,” and said they “can be called the biggest, false accusations in human history.”

“They have lost their minds and their conscience, they are enthusiastic about political manipulation and the abuse of sanctions, to a level that is hysterical,” Xu said at a news conference on Monday morning. “Their purpose is, by using human rights as an excuse, to destabilize Xinjiang and China.”

China faces accusations of genocide 

The U.S. government has publicly accused Beijing of genocide against the Uyghur Muslim ethnic minorities in the region. 

In Canada, MPs voted to label China’s actions in Xinjiang region a “genocide.” Liberal cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, abstained from that vote.

The Liberal government has been reluctant to use the term “genocide” to describe Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang but it has faced increasing pressure from opposition parties to take a stronger stand on China.

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