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U.S. lawmakers call for U.N. Uyghur rights report before China's Olympics

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FILE - Protesters rally against the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games on International Human Rights Day outside the TCL Chinese Theatre in the Hollywo...

FILE - Protesters rally against the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games on International Human Rights Day outside the TCL Chinese Theatre in the Hollywo...

(Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday urged the United Nations' human rights office to release its assessment of China's policies in Xinjiang before next month's Beijing Winter Olympics, which the U.S. government is boycotting on a diplomatic level over what it says is ongoing genocide in the region.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has lamented https://www.reuters.com/world/china/un-rights-chief-regrets-lack-access-xinjiang-2021-09-13 that her office has been unable to gain access to the western Chinese region to probe allegations of rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups.

Her office said in December that it was finalizing a report on the situation in Xinjiang that it hoped to publish in the coming weeks after long-running talks with Chinese officials on a proposed visit had yielded no progress.

Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative James McGovern, two Democrats who respectively chair and co-chair the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, wrote a public letter to Bachelet asking her to issue the report before the "international spectacle" of the Beijing Games begins on Feb. 4.

"Its publication would send an important reminder that no country can evade international scrutiny for engaging in serious human rights abuses," Merkley and McGovern said.

Bachelet's office did not respond immediately to a Reuters question asking when the report would be released.

Bachelet had been negotiating the terms of a Xinjiang visit since September 2018, as allegations were emerging that some one million Uyghurs had been held in mass detention camps.

China denies wrongdoing in Xinjiang, and says the camps are for vocational training and to stem religious extremism.

The United States and many of its allies, including Britain, Canada, Australia, Japan and Denmark, have said they will not send official diplomatic delegations to the Games in protest of China's rights record.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)