As Washington ramps up pressure on Beijing to end its extrajudicial mass detention of up to 3 million Uighur Muslims, Chinese officials are accusing the U.S. of hypocrisy over its own record of anti-Muslim discrimination.
“Muslims have all along been the most discriminated group in the U.S.,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said during a news conference this week. Hua’s comments were a response to calls from U.S. lawmakers and officials for the country to close its extensive network of Uighur detention camps.
U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad’s urged Beijing to improve the human rights situation of Muslim minorities in China’s western Xinjiang province.
“It can no longer be denied that more than one million Uighurs and members of other minority groups have been detained in Xinjiang against their will,” Branstad said Tuesday (Dec. 10). “It is also evident that these egregious actions, including extensive security controls and surveillance, forced labor, blanket suppression of religious expression, and even the mass collection of DNA, are targeting Uighurs’ ethnic and religious identities.”
Both chambers of Congress have overwhelmingly passed versions of a bipartisan bill ordering sanctions on Chinese officials over the country’s treatment of its Muslim minority. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly demanded China close its camps, called on other countries to reject China’s demands to repatriate Uighurs back to China, and denounced China’s efforts to intimidate and threaten U.S. citizens and residents.
Hua dismissed those concerns during China’s Foreign Ministry daily news conference Tuesday.
“Certain people in the U.S. show unusual concern over Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang, but they seem to forget that the United States is the only country that issued a Muslim ban,” she said.
Muslim American advocacy organizations called China’s defense a “false comparison” and urged China to end its mistreatment of Muslims.
“China should stop making excuses for (and) covering up its Muslim concentration camps,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a statement after China’s news conference. During her news conference Hua had cited a 2018 CAIR report finding that federal agencies instigated 35% of all anti-Muslim bias incidents documented in the previous year.
CAIR argued that anti-Muslim acts by individuals in the U.S. cannot be compared to “concentration camps” operated by the Chinese state and that Hua’s statement was “a way of detracting from (China’s) own crimes and authoritarian practices.”
“It is an egregious and callous claim to suggest that the challenges facing Muslims in the US in any way, shape, or form can compare to the well documented human rights abuses and genocidal policies faced by Uighur communities at the hands of the Chinese state,” said CAIR’s research and advocacy director, Abbas Barzegar.
Uighur rights groups in the U.S. told Religion News Service that the plight of their community — an ethnically Turkic and largely Muslim population in western China and parts of Central Asia — is not about Islam.
Instead, the Washington-based group East Turkistan Government-in-Exile called China’s repression of Uighurs “an issue about colonialism in the 21st century.” The group claims the conflict between China and Uighurs dates back to China’s 1949 invasion, occupation and renaming of the region Uighurs call East Turkistan.
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Source: Religion News Service