China’s leader has defended the country’s human rights record, and said it is on a “path of human rights development that conforms to the trend of the times”.
Xi Jinping, who heads the ruling Communist Party – which allows no political opposition and strictly controls free speech – criticised countries that lecture others on human rights and allegedly politicise the issue.
“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,” Mr Xi told UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet in a video call, according to an online report by state broadcaster CCTV.
Ms Bachelet is in the middle of a six-day visit to China that includes stops in Xinjiang, a remote north-western region where the Chinese government has been accused of human rights violations and genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic groups.
Her trip has come under criticism from the US and others who believe China will stage-manage her trip and use it for propaganda purposes.
Ms Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said it had been valuable to have direct talks with Mr Xi and senior Chinese officials.
China’s Foreign Ministry quoted Ms Bachelet as telling Mr Xi she admired China’s efforts and achievements on poverty and human rights – but her office has disputed this and said she did not say this.
The Communist Party has become known for its often-harsh treatment of dissidents, activist and ethnic minority groups in Tibet and Inner Mongolia.
Trip is ‘a mistake’
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the United States does not expect China to allow the access Ms Bachelet would need to get an unmanipulated view of the human rights situation 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,” he said.
During the meeting, Mr Xi laid out the long-held Communist Party’s position on human rights, which argues that China should find its own path and not completely copy the models of other countries and rejects outside criticism as interference in its domestic affairs.
“On the issue of human rights, there is no perfect ‘utopia’,” he was quoted as saying.
“We don’t need ‘masters’ that dictate to other countries, let alone politicising and turning the human rights issue into a tool, practising double standards and interference in the internal affairs of other countries under the pretext of human rights.”
Ms Bachelet started her trip in Guangzhou, a city in south-eastern China. Her itinerary also includes the cities of Kashgar and Urumqi, both in Xinjiang.