China’s Xi in rare meet with UN human rights official

Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping held an unusual meeting with a top human rights chief, highlighting the importance his administration places on United Nations official Michelle Bachelet’s landmark visit to China.

Beijing is willing to discuss rights issues and cooperate with all parties on the basis of mutual respect, Xi said in a video call with Bachelet yesterday, state broadcaster China Central Television reported.

Xi added that each country must follow a path of human rights development that suits it best based on its situation and the needs of its people.

Bachelet told Xi that the UN Human Rights Commission she heads is willing to boost communications and discuss cooperation with China.

“I admire the efforts and achievement China has made in the areas of poverty elimination, human rights protection, as well as realising economic and social development,” she said, according to CCTV.

The UN commission hasn’t yet provided details of the conversation.

The call is surprising because Xi usually meets only with other heads of state and top leaders such as the UN secretary general. But his government has been harshly criticised for its human rights record, with US accusations of genocide in the remote Xinjiang region that Bachelet will visit becoming a major tension in relations between the world’s two largest economies.

Beijing vehemently denies the charge.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin at a regular press briefing in Beijing sidestepped questions on whether Xinjiang was raised during the Xi-Bachelet call, instead referring reporters to the ministry’s statement which didn’t mention Xinjiang.

Bachelet, a 70-year-old former two term president of Chile, told diplomats that her visit wasn’t an investigation but an opportunity to promote human rights, in an apparent effort to lower expectations, the first by someone in her position since 2005. — Bloomberg

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