Wang meets top UN rights official as she opens Xinjiang trip

China’s foreign minister met with the U.N.’s top human rights official on her visit to the country and shared with her that China opposes “politicizing” human rights and imposing double standards, its foreign ministry said.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Michelle Bachelet in the southern city of Guangzhou on Monday as she started a trip that is the first to China by a U.N. high commissioner for human rights since 2005.

Her six-day, fact-finding visit is focused on allegations of abuses against Muslim minorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, but rights groups fear her visit will help whitewash the abuses.

China locked up an estimated million or more members of Uyghur, Kazakh and other Muslim minorities in what critics describe as a campaign to obliterate their distinct cultural identities. China says it has nothing to hide and welcomes all those without political bias to visit Xinjiang and view what it describes as a successful campaign to fight terrorism and restore order and ethnic cohesion.

From Guangzhou, Bachelet will travel to Kashgar, once a stop on the Silk Road, and Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital. The U.N. and China barred foreign media from accompanying Bachelet, and it’s unclear who she will meet and how much access she will be granted throughout her visit.

The U.N. quoted Bachelet as telling Wang that she was looking forward to exchanges with “many different people during my visit, particularly with government officials, business leaders, academics, students and members of the civil society working on human rights and other social and economic issues.”

“While we will be discussing sensitive and important issues, I hope this will help us to build confidence and enable us to work together in advancing human rights in China and globally,” Bachelet was quoted as saying.

“Wang noted that to advance the international cause of human rights, we must first, respect each other and refrain from politicizing human rights.” the Foreign Ministry said in a news release posted on its website.

“Multilateral human rights institutions should serve as a major venue for cooperation and dialogue rather than a new battlefield for division and confrontation,” the ministry said.

China’s ruling Communist Party allows no political opposition and strictly limits free speech, along with rights to assembly and religious expression. China is also one of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and has signed but not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights administered by Bachelet’s office.

Beijing has also come under criticism over its refusal to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as its hardline “zero-COVID” approach to the pandemic that has disrupted the lives of tens of millions of citizens and upended global supply chains.