China called on the UN’s human rights chief to respect its sovereignty after she highlighted “deeply disturbing” allegations of mass detentions of Muslim Uighur minorities in Xinjiang.
On Monday, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet denounced China’s ongoing crackdown on the Uighur community in her first remarks as head of the UN rights watchdog in Geneva.
The two-time president of Chile also urged Beijing to allow monitors into the restive far western region to investigate the situation there.
Bachelet should “scrupulously abide by the mission and principles of the UN charter”, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Tuesday.
Geng added she should “respect China’s sovereignty, fairly and objectively”, and “not listen to one-sided information” while carrying out her duties.
Bachelet’s appeal for access came as Human Rights Watch reported the Turkic-speaking Uighurs face arbitrary detentions, restrictions on religious practice, and “forced political indoctrination” in a mass security clampdown.
A United Nations rights panel said last month it had received credible reports that up to one million Uighurs may be held in extra-legal detention in the northwestern province of China, and called for them to be freed.
China rejected the latest UN report.
China said tough security measures in Xinjiang were necessary to combat “extremism and terrorism” but added it did not target specific ethnic groups or restrict religious freedoms.
Xinjiang is home to at least eight million Muslim Uighurs.
In a region that shares borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, minority Muslim groups face regulations banning beards and veils, as well as the unauthorised distribution of the Quran.
During the past two years, authorities have dramatically stepped up security and surveillance in Xinjiang, likened by critics to near martial law conditions with police checkpoints, re-education camps, and mass DNA collection.