Xinjiang (northwestern China), long hit by attacks attributed to separatists and Uyghur Islamists, has been the subject of repression in the name of anti-terrorism for several years.

Western studies accuse China of having interned there at least a million Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities in re-education camps, even of imposing “forced labor” and “forced sterilization”, which defend Beijing.

On Tuesday, a consortium of 14 foreign media including the newspaper Le Monde published data supposed to come from the hacking of police computers in Xinjiang, where Beijing is accused of carrying out a fierce crackdown against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.

These documents shed a harsh light on the situation in Xinjiang. Among them are thousands of photographs presented as having been taken in “detention camps” and showing the faces of many “detainees”, including women, minors and the elderly.

These revelations come as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, begins a long-awaited visit to Xinjiang.

This trip promises to be difficult for the former Chilean president, who may not benefit from free access and risks being used by the Chinese authorities to clear customs, observers point out.

“Issues related to human rights must not be politicized, instrumentalized or have double standards,” warned Xi Jinping on Wednesday, during a videoconference interview with Ms. Bachelet.

“Each country has a different situation” which depends on its history, its culture and its economic development, noted the strong man of Beijing.

– “Valuable” interview –

Therefore, each country must follow “its own path in terms of human rights, according to its conditions and the needs of its people”, said Xi Jinping, according to remarks reported by national television CCTV.

“There is no perfect country when it comes to human rights,” added the Chinese president.

The public television report does not mention Xinjiang at any time.

“Meetings with President Xi and senior (Chinese) officials have been invaluable in directly discussing […] human rights concerns in China and around the world,” Bachelet said on Twitter.

The trip of the UN human rights official to Xinjiang is being done discreetly for the time being.

No details on the precise places where Michelle Bachelet will go have been made public, which raises questions about the latitude she will benefit from in practice on the ground.

Especially since in the name of the epidemic situation in China, the UN delegation is required to integrate a health bubble which keeps it away from the foreign press.

– “Lie” –

Michelle Bachelet is the first UN human rights official to visit China since 2005, after years of tough negotiations with Beijing over the terms of her visit.

According to her services, the former Chilean president will discuss with members of civil society working on human rights.

Worried, Uyghurs from the diaspora and human rights associations urged Ms. Bachelet not to be drawn into a communication operation orchestrated by Beijing.

The UN human rights official “must demand information from the Chinese government” on those arbitrarily arrested in Xinjiang, said researcher Maya Wang, China specialist at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

China is accused by Washington of condoning “at the highest level” abuses in Xinjiang against the Uyghurs.

“We are appalled by this shocking information and images,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday of the leak of files attributed to Chinese police.

Washington regularly accuses Beijing of being responsible for a “genocide” in Xinjiang.

China denounces the “lie of the century” and presents the camps as “vocational training centers” intended to combat religious extremism.