A visit by EU ambassadors to the Xinjiang region of China has stalled over their request for access to jailed Uighur academic Ilham Tohti, a diplomatic source said yesterday.
China said it has since 2019 invited foreign diplomats and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to visit Xinjiang, where rights groups allege more than 1 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are detained in internment camps.
However, there has been little sign of progress.
A European diplomat told reporters that it was because the mission wants to visit Tohti, a Uighur economist jailed for life on separatism charges in 2014.
He received the Sakharov Prize — the EU’s top human rights award — in 2019.
“Negotiations are in a stalemate because of Tohti and other conditions,” the diplomat said. “I don’t think they are going soon.”
Chinese Ambassador to the EU Zhang Ming (張明) on Tuesday said “almost everything had been arranged” for EU member states’ ambassadors to visit Xinjiang.
However, it had snagged on “unacceptable requests,” he added.
“They insist on a meeting with one criminal convicted by Chinese law,” he said. “This is unacceptable, I’m so sorry.”
China has denied allegations of abuse involving Uighurs in Xinjiang and said that all inmates have “graduated” from “vocational training centers,” which it claims have helped stamp out extremism in the region and raise incomes.
A delegation of three EU officials who took part in a carefully organized Xinjiang visit in January 2019 previously said they believed the people they met in a “training center” were reciting a dictated speech.
Zhang added that Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) extended an invitation to Bachelet on March 7, after she late last month called for an “independent and comprehensive assessment of the human rights situation” in Xinjiang.
He said that Xinjiang is “open to foreign diplomats, journalists and tourists.”
All foreign journalists have faced extensive harassment and surveillance from Chinese authorities when attempting to report from Xinjiang over the past year, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China has said.
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