UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet says China trip not reason for stepping down

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UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet announced Monday that she will not seek a second term, ending months of speculation about her intentions amid growing criticism of her lax stance on rights abuses in China.

Speaking to the media after addressing the summer session of the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council in Geneva, Bachelet confirmed that she would be stepping down when her current term ended on 31 August, as she wanted to go back to her family and her country.

Bachelet, a former president of Chile, took up the job in September 2018 and immediately expressed hopes of visiting China and viewing the rights situation in Xinjiang for herself.

Her office repeatedly said she and staffers were working to create the right conditions for the trip, which ultimately took place last month.

But critics said she hasn't spoken out enough, and during the visit didn’t press local authorities enough.

Bachelet insisted that her trip was not an “investigation” and emphasised that she had opened a channel of communication with top Chinese authorities.

Answering journalists' questions Monday, the 70-year-old said her decision has nothing to do with the trip to China or the criticism she received.

"Can you imagine that having been president twice, I have received a lot of criticism in my life. So that's not what makes you do certain decisions," she said.

"This is a decision and really, truly because my family needs me there and because my country needs me there."

A veteran politician who had rubbed elbows with leaders worldwide while Chile's president, and the daughter of a man who was tortured under a rightist regime in the country, Bachelet was widely seen as a politically savvy choice who would bring in a less vocal and more cooperative approach to the office than her outspoken predecessor Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein - a Jordanian prince.

(With agencies)

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