Michelle Bachelet, Prove Us Wrong (Please) or Resign

CommentaryTo much fanfare from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its state-run media, the United Nation’s human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, concluded her visit to China and its Xinjiang region on May 28. The outcome is a complete travesty, at least at first glance. The consistent murmur within the civil society sector from the announcement of the trip rapidly turned into a global outcry at the apparent failure of her trip, with both the United States and European Union blasting the visit in unusually strong language. But, perhaps, there is more to this visit than meets the eye? From the very beginning of her appointment, Bachelet—who has twice been president and left office with strong popular support—was seen as at least competent, though not necessarily inspiring. Long before being elected as the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, she was already well-traveled and held extensive experience outside of Chile. Bachelet also experienced and witnessed the gross human rights violations in her homeland while growing up as the daughter of a minister in the left-wing Allende regime. She was forced to live in exile after the military coup in 1973. Whatever one might think or say of her, Bachelet is not stupid and has firsthand seen the horrors of dictatorship and police run amok. Her commitment to democracy and human rights is not, or at least was not, in question. Stupidity and ignorance are unlikely to be the reason for this travesty. A gate of what is officially known as a vocational skills education center is photographed in Dabancheng, in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, on Sept. 4, 2018. (Thomas Peter/Reuters) All this makes her Potemkin-style visit to China and Xinjiang puzzling. Not for the first time, Beijing has taken statements issued after her visit out of context and, in some instances, even went as far as inventing quotes attributed to her, thus presenting her trip to the Chinese people as an endorsement of the CCP’s brutal policy. Bachelet’s office must have been aware that this would happen yet still decided to go ahead with the meaningless trip. Her office has since long been working on a comprehensive report on the atrocities being carried out in Xinjiang, targeting Uyghurs in particular. It is well understood that its content will be damming for the CCP. One reason for the growing anger in the wider civil society sector is the continued refusal to release that report, which was completed in December last year. In fact, on Dec. 10, her office stated that the report would be released in “a matter of weeks.” Yet, half a year later, the report has not been made public. And her office has indeed released very hard-hitting reports on other countries, such as Sri Lanka. Suppose we can conclude that Bachelet and her office are competent. In that case, few reasons can explain or justify the continued refusal to release the report or her agreement to visit China, despite the restrictions placed on the visit by Chinese authorities. It’s time for Bachelet to show which of the following reasons are true. Either she is placating China in the hopes of securing a confirmation or a different role within the U.N. upon the conclusion of her term, which will end in August this year. The pull and allure of finding international roles are common, and China and Russia’s elite capture of former government leaders are often successful. The desire to remain relevant is a strong one. But could someone with Bachelet’s background be that cold-hearted? It would seem unlikely, if not impossible. The only other option is that the refusal to release the report was to use it as leverage to force China to admit the High Commissioner into China and Xinjiang, the first such visit since 2005. That visit alone would make a mark even if nothing substantial comes from it, allowing her to leave some kind of legacy. It’s also possible that the limitations placed on the visit would be clearly outlined as a final addition to the already concluded report, which is yet to be released. Frankly, little value would come from such, but if the report is released and done sooner rather than later, it would at least show a method behind it all—an idea, a strategy, and however limited its success. The report, unaltered except for pointing out the limitations imposed by China on the visit, must be released if Bachelet is to salvage part of her tattered reputation and prove her critics wrong. It is especially key to ensure that the office itself isn’t permanently damaged in credibility after she leaves office. It’s hard to see any path for her to leave office with, at best, mixed marks. But at least there is a way to ensure that her term isn’t a failure and allowed to sully the office’s reputation. Bachelet, show your mettle and release the report—do it now while the world is watching, or else you will be playing into the CCP’s hands (yet again). Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author an

Michelle Bachelet, Prove Us Wrong (Please) or Resign

Commentary

To much fanfare from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its state-run media, the United Nation’s human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, concluded her visit to China and its Xinjiang region on May 28. The outcome is a complete travesty, at least at first glance.

The consistent murmur within the civil society sector from the announcement of the trip rapidly turned into a global outcry at the apparent failure of her trip, with both the United States and European Union blasting the visit in unusually strong language.

But, perhaps, there is more to this visit than meets the eye?

From the very beginning of her appointment, Bachelet—who has twice been president and left office with strong popular support—was seen as at least competent, though not necessarily inspiring. Long before being elected as the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, she was already well-traveled and held extensive experience outside of Chile.

Bachelet also experienced and witnessed the gross human rights violations in her homeland while growing up as the daughter of a minister in the left-wing Allende regime. She was forced to live in exile after the military coup in 1973.

Whatever one might think or say of her, Bachelet is not stupid and has firsthand seen the horrors of dictatorship and police run amok. Her commitment to democracy and human rights is not, or at least was not, in question. Stupidity and ignorance are unlikely to be the reason for this travesty.

a vocational skills education center
A gate of what is officially known as a vocational skills education center is photographed in Dabancheng, in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, on Sept. 4, 2018. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

All this makes her Potemkin-style visit to China and Xinjiang puzzling. Not for the first time, Beijing has taken statements issued after her visit out of context and, in some instances, even went as far as inventing quotes attributed to her, thus presenting her trip to the Chinese people as an endorsement of the CCP’s brutal policy. Bachelet’s office must have been aware that this would happen yet still decided to go ahead with the meaningless trip.

Her office has since long been working on a comprehensive report on the atrocities being carried out in Xinjiang, targeting Uyghurs in particular. It is well understood that its content will be damming for the CCP.

One reason for the growing anger in the wider civil society sector is the continued refusal to release that report, which was completed in December last year. In fact, on Dec. 10, her office stated that the report would be released in “a matter of weeks.” Yet, half a year later, the report has not been made public. And her office has indeed released very hard-hitting reports on other countries, such as Sri Lanka.

Suppose we can conclude that Bachelet and her office are competent. In that case, few reasons can explain or justify the continued refusal to release the report or her agreement to visit China, despite the restrictions placed on the visit by Chinese authorities. It’s time for Bachelet to show which of the following reasons are true.

Either she is placating China in the hopes of securing a confirmation or a different role within the U.N. upon the conclusion of her term, which will end in August this year. The pull and allure of finding international roles are common, and China and Russia’s elite capture of former government leaders are often successful. The desire to remain relevant is a strong one. But could someone with Bachelet’s background be that cold-hearted? It would seem unlikely, if not impossible.

The only other option is that the refusal to release the report was to use it as leverage to force China to admit the High Commissioner into China and Xinjiang, the first such visit since 2005. That visit alone would make a mark even if nothing substantial comes from it, allowing her to leave some kind of legacy.

It’s also possible that the limitations placed on the visit would be clearly outlined as a final addition to the already concluded report, which is yet to be released. Frankly, little value would come from such, but if the report is released and done sooner rather than later, it would at least show a method behind it all—an idea, a strategy, and however limited its success.

The report, unaltered except for pointing out the limitations imposed by China on the visit, must be released if Bachelet is to salvage part of her tattered reputation and prove her critics wrong. It is especially key to ensure that the office itself isn’t permanently damaged in credibility after she leaves office.

It’s hard to see any path for her to leave office with, at best, mixed marks. But at least there is a way to ensure that her term isn’t a failure and allowed to sully the office’s reputation.

Bachelet, show your mettle and release the report—do it now while the world is watching, or else you will be playing into the CCP’s hands (yet again).

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Peter Dahlin is the founder of the NGO Safeguard Defenders and the co-founder of the Beijing-based Chinese NGO China Action (2007–2016). He is the author of “Trial By Media,” and contributor to “The People’s Republic of the Disappeared.” He lived in Beijing from 2007, until detained and placed in a secret jail in 2016, subsequently deported and banned. Prior to living in China, he worked for the Swedish government with gender equality issues, and now lives in Madrid, Spain.