The pressure of expectations will be great when Michelle Bachelet takes stock of her visit to the Chinese region of Xinjiang at a press conference this Saturday.

The United States has accused the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that it was a "mistake" to travel "under these conditions" at all.

A coalition of human rights organizations expressed concern that Bachelet was "walking into a trap."

An alliance of 38 MEPs sees "the credibility of the office" at risk if the commissioner does not succeed in gaining "access for a meaningful investigation".

Friederike Böge

Political correspondent for China, North Korea and Mongolia.

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International law expert Philip Alston sees it differently.

"It is extremely important that this visit takes place." Alston was in a similar situation in 2016 as Bachelet is today.

He visited China as UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

“I was also told that was a mistake.

That didn't turn out to be right," he said in an interview with foreign journalists on Friday.

Not even unheard on UN premises

Alston says a serious "investigation" during Bachelet's visit is unthinkable anyway.

Meetings with independent observers or even critics of the regime are virtually impossible, says the law professor.

In his case, people who wanted to meet him were bullied and kept away from him.

All his conversations were overheard.

Not even on the United Nations compound in Beijing is there a place where you can speak without being overheard, says Alston.

In his view, the importance of Bachelet's visit is to turn the spotlight on Xinjiang, bring the region back into the headlines and "direct the available information into the right channels".

Bachelet herself said in a conversation with diplomats this week, according to the Reuters news agency, that her trip was "not an investigation".

In doing so, she attracted new criticism because China had formulated this as a prerequisite for the visit.

She is met with a lot of skepticism because she has hardly made any definite statements about the situation in Xinjiang since 2018 and because the publication of her own report on human rights violations there has been postponed for months without justification.

In Beijing, some employees in her office are said to be at a loss and irritated by Bachelet's silence.

"Sightseeing Tour of Beautiful Xinjiang"

Is she withholding the report just to give it extra credibility with her trip?

Or is it to be feared that she will shy away from an open confrontation with Beijing in order to keep channels of communication open?

An initial answer to these questions will be given after the press conference on Saturday afternoon.

Ultimately, that will only be answered when your written report is available.

Really new insights are not expected from it.

Human rights violations in Xinjiang are well documented.

The main thing is to upgrade this knowledge with the UN stamp.

The discussion about Bachelet's strategy also includes the fact that her term of office expires in September and she has not yet declared whether she is seeking re-election.

On one point, those who know the former Chilean president agree: she is not naïve.

One diplomat describes her as a "savvy politician".

It is criticized that Bachelet has so far remained silent about the exact conditions of her trip.

At least afterwards you have to make them transparent, it is demanded.

The diplomat assumes that China "organized a "sightseeing tour through beautiful Xinjiang".

On Wednesday, Bachelet's office for the first time defended itself against Beijing's attempts to exploit her visit for propaganda purposes.

The Foreign Ministry has claimed that in a meeting with President Xi Jinping, the commissioner expressed her "admiration" for China's "achievements" in protecting human rights.

The High Commissioner then announced what she "actually" said, including that her office wanted to "accompany" China in strengthening human rights.

In the conversation, Xi Jinping let Bachelet know that his country did not need any "instructional lectures".

Earlier, Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave her a book by Xi Jinping with his lectures on human rights.

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