Pompeo calls China's treatment of Uighurs 'stain of the century'

July 19, 2019 09:17
A file picture shows people in Vancouver holding signs protesting China's treatment of the Uighur people. UN experts and activists believe that at least one million Uighurs are held in detention centers in China’s Xinjiang region. Photo: Reuters

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday called China’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority the “stain of the century” and accused Beijing of pressuring countries not to attend a US-hosted conference on religious freedom, Reuters reports.

“China is home to one of the worst human rights crises of our time; it is truly the stain of the century,” Pompeo was quoted as saying on the final day of the international conference in Washington.

Chinese government officials had sought to discourage countries from attending the three-day event he has hosted, attended by 106 countries, he said.

“Is that consistent with the guarantee of religious belief that is found directly in the Chinese constitution?” Pompeo asked.

The US official congratulated countries which had defied Chinese pressure, while adding: “If you have declined to attend for the same reason, we take note.”

“We know the Chinese government called countries specifically to discourage participation. We cannot prove the exact number they successfully impacted,” Pompeo said.

The remarks came a day after US President Donald Trump met at the White House with victims of religious persecution from countries including China, Turkey, North Korea, Iran and Myanmar.

The Chinese government on Thursday rejected any suggestion that it abuses religious and human rights.

“In China this situation of so-called religious persecution does not exist,” a foreign ministry spokesman told a news briefing in Beijing after the White House ceremony.

“We demand that the United States correctly view China’s religious policies and the status of religious freedom in China, and stop using the issue of religion to interfere in other countries’ affairs.”

US Vice President Mike Pence, who like Pompeo has been a strong critic of China, told the same conference that the ongoing US trade talks with China will not sway the commitment to freedom of religion.

“Whatever comes of our negotiations with Beijing, you can be assured that the American people will stand in solidarity with people of all faith in the People’s Republic of China,” he said. “We will pray for the day that they can live out their faith freely without fear of persecution.”

Nearly two dozen nations at the UN Human Rights Council this month urged China to halt persecution of ethnic Uighurs in its western region of Xinjiang, where UN experts and activists say at least one million are held in detention centers.

-- Contact us at [email protected]