China says protects free speech within limits, welcomes Bachelet visit to Xinjiang in May

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Ambassador of China to the United Nations Chen Xu attends a news conference on coronavirus in Geneva, Switzerland January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

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GENEVA, March 8 (Reuters) - Freedom of expression is protected in China but cannot be an excuse to put anyone above the law, a Chinese envoy to the U.N. said on Tuesday after the U.N. rights chief Michelle Bachelet voiced concern at arrests and prison terms for critics there.

Chen Xu, China's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, told the Human Rights Council: "Our people's freedom of expression is fully protected in our law. China is a country with rule of law. Freedom of expression can never be a pretext to make (put) anyone above the law."

Referring to Bachelet's announcement that she had agreed a visit to China in May, including Xinjiang region, where activists say some 1 million Uyghurs have been held in mass detention, Chen said: "We welcome the High Commissioner's visit to Xinjiang this May. And China will work together with the OHCHR to make good preparation for this visit."

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Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Catherine Evans

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