Pompeo Accuses China of Punishing Uighurs Whose Relatives Have Spoken Out in the U.S.

Patrick Goodenough | November 6, 2019 | 4:51am EST
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing. (Photo by Andy Wong/AFP/Getty Images)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing. (Photo by Andy Wong/AFP/Getty Images)


(CNSNews.com) – At a time when China has won support from dozens of governments for its controversial treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang province, the U.S. voiced concern Tuesday about reports that the communist authorities are targeting relatives of Uighurs who speak out publicly in the U.S. about those policies.

Some of the individuals whose families have reportedly been under attack in China had met earlier with senior State Department officials, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Some of the individuals whose families have reportedly been under attack in China had met earlier with senior State Department officials, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

They include Ferkat Jawdut and Alfred Erkin, two U.S.-based Uighurs with relatives in China’s mass internment camps, who met with Pompeo at the State Department last March, and Zumrat Daqut, a survivor of a camp who described her ordeal during a State Department-hosted event in New York in September.

Pompeo said in a statement the U.S. was “deeply troubled by multiple reports” of harassment, imprisonment or arbitrary detention of family members of Uighurs “who have made their stories public.”

He expressed “condolences to the brave individuals and their families who have been directly impacted by the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign of repression.”

“The courage of Uighur advocates to speak out is vital to unearthing the truth about the PRC’s abuses of human rights, including repression of freedom of religion,” Pompeo said. “We once again call on Beijing to cease all harassment of Uighurs living outside of China, to release all those arbitrarily detained, and to allow families to communicate freely without repercussions.”

Human rights campaigners charge that China has been holding more than a millions Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other minority Muslims in indoctrination camps in the far-western Xinjiang province since April 2017.

The administration has been outspokenly critical on the issue, even as many other governments have backed China’s contention that the camps – whose existence it initially denied – are educational facilities designed to “deradicalize” Muslims as part of its campaign against terrorism and extremism.


Dueling statements

The most recent show of support for Beijing came during a meeting last week of the U.N. General Assembly’s committee dealing with human rights, where the representative of Belarus read out a statement “on behalf of 54 countries,” praising its Xinjiang policies.

“China has undertaken a series of counterterrorism and de-radicalization measures in Xinjiang, including setting up vocational education and training centers,” the joint statement said. It echoed China’s assertions that “the fundamental human rights of people of all ethnic groups there are safeguarded.”

Meanwhile 23 other countries, all democracies, backed a British-led joint statement calling on Beijing to stop the “arbitrary detention of Uighurs and members of other Muslim communities.”

Afterwards, China’s foreign ministry highlighted the fact that more countries had signed up to Belarus’ joint statement than Britain’s one.

While “a handful of Western countries” had “slandered” China, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a briefing the next day, more than 60 other countries had commended “China’s tremendous human rights progress and Xinjiang policy.”

“The few Western countries’ anti-China show ended as a disgraceful debacle,” Geng said.

In a further dig at the critics, he added, “As is known to all, the human rights records of the U.S., the U.K. and some other countries are nothing to be proud of. Those countries are in no position at all to criticize others.”

Unlike the British statement, the joint statement read out by Belarus did not list all of the countries supporting it, but instead named just six.

CNSNews.com asked the Belarus U.N. mission last Thursday for a list, but received no response.

Others who tried to obtain the list of countries were also unsuccessful. When the non-governmental organization U.N. Watch asked the Belarus mission for the list, it was referred to the Chinese mission.

After further queries, the Belarus mission on Tuesday provided CNSNews.com with a list.

U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer wondered why it had taken a full week after the speech for the countries to be named.

“There is no reason they would have waited until now to release the names unless the initial announcement of the 54 supporters was a bluff, a rushed bid to blunt the effect of the 23-nation criticism delivered by the U.K. – which indeed proved successful in the media coverage that never questioned their inability to provide the missing 48 country names,” he commented.

Of the 54 named, almost half (25 plus “Palestine,” which is not a U.N. member-state) are Islamic states, including Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan, the UAE and Syria. (The full list appears below.)

This is not the first time Islamic nations have backed China’s treatment of minority Muslims in Xinjiang.

Last July, when 36 U.N. member-states signed the letter praising China’s policies in Xinjiang, more than half of them were Muslim-majority states.

The 54 countries listed by Belarus as supporters of China’s policies in Xinjiang are:

Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Republic of the Congo, Russian Federation, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The 23 countries who supported the statement read out by Britain are:

Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the United States.

See also:

At UN, Erdogan Cites Muslims’ Plights Around the World – but No Mention of Uighurs in China (Sept. 25, 2019)

Religious Freedom Envoy Dismayed Islamic Countries Won’t Condemn China’s Abuse of Uighur Muslims (Sept. 24, 2019)

China Boosts Turkey’s Foreign Reserves; Erdogan Drops Criticism of Beijing’s Treatment of Uighurs (Aug. 12, 2019)


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