Fighting China’s egregious violations of human rights – including the imprisonment of up to 3 million Muslims in concentration camps – is “what we do, and who we are,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said of America Wednesday at a speech before the Vatican.
Pompeo said the “stakes are even higher” for human dignity than during the Cold War and that nations confronting China for its use of concentration camps to eliminate ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims are “following the wisdom of Jesus.”
Pompeo was speaking at a symposium at the Holy See dedicated to defending religious freedom and human dignity. Washington and the Vatican are celebrating 35 years of diplomatic ties.
His remarks also condemned human rights violations against religious people in Cuba, Syria, and Iran.
Survivors of the estimated thousands of concentration camps in Xinjiang, China’s westernmost state, have testified to the Communist Party using Uighurs and other minorities as slaves, harvesting their organs to sell on the black market, torturing them, and forcing them to worship dictator Xi Jinping. The Chinese regime insists that the camps are “vocational centers” where wayward Muslims vulnerable to jihadist indoctrination learn job skills that keep them from becoming terrorists.
Pompeo opened his speech with the story of Zumrat Dawat, a Uighur woman who survived a Xinjiang concentration camp, saved because her husband, a Pakistani national, made the case an international one. Dawat testified to the horrors she experienced at the camp in New York last week, at a religious freedom event hosted alongside events at the United Nations General Assembly.
“Before she left the camp, she was forced to renounce her faith and promise not to speak about what had happened to her. Chinese officials monitored her family and forced them to eat pork,” Pompeo recalled.
He noted that Dawat survived because “she wasn’t alone. God was with her. And America was with her, too. It’s what we do, and it’s who we are.”
Pompeo applauded the nations of the world – few among them, notably, majority Muslim – for condemning China for its human rights abuses in Xinjiang. “They are standing up and speaking honestly about it,” he said. “They’re following the wisdom of Jesus: ‘Be not afraid.’”
“Today, each of us must gird ourselves for another battle in defense of human dignity and religious freedom,” Pompeo stated. “The stakes today are arguably higher than they were even during the Cold War, because the threats to it are more diverse and more numerous.”
He noted that over 80 percent of the world lives under a regime that represses political freedom, or under threat of attack from religious radicals. He lay most of the blame for this situation on authoritarian states.
“Because when the state rules absolutely, God becomes an absolute threat to authority. That’s why Cuba cancelled National Catholic Youth Day back in August. … That’s why Assad kills his own people … That’s why the Islamic Republic of Iran has jailed, tortured, and killed thousands of its own citizens for four decades,” Pompeo asserted.
He concluded by calling the Trump administration the “strongest advocates of religious freedom in the history of our country” and urging nations of the world to join the administration in challenging human rights violators to stop committing crimes against people of faith.
China’s foreign ministry and state propaganda agencies typically respond rapidly to condemnation of China’s gross human rights abuses. As Tuesday was the anniversary of the founding of communist China, however, the national holiday has kept Beijing from responding at press time.
The Pentagon estimated in May that as many as 3 million people – most Muslim Uighurs, but in some cases dissident Christians, as well – were at the time languishing in concentration camps in Xinjiang. Survivors say the regime forces them to learn Mandarin and abandon their native Uighur language, memorize Communist Party propaganda and songs worshipping Xi Jinping, eat pork to violate Islamic law, and work in sweatshops making clothing, some of which has been sold in America.
More recently released survivors say that Chinese government agents do a complete health scan to check if their organs are useable in transplants; China has for years engaged in live organ harvesting using political prisoners to make money on the black market, many reports have revealed.
Dawat, the woman Pompeo highlighted in his speech, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that she endured a complete organ scan and thorough health check before being interned in her concentration camp.
“[F]irst they took me to a hospital, and that is what they do, first take you to a hospital. Only after they removed the black hood from over my head did I realize I was in a hospital,” she explained. “I saw police in uniform everywhere, also people wearing white coats walking about, so I guessed that I was in a hospital. … they drew blood samples first, then X-Rayed my internal organs.”
After the health scan, Dawat said that Chinese police drugged her every day, which made her “numb emotionally.” She also said the drugs appeared to prevent menstruation, suggesting they had contraceptive properties. She also described a forced sterilization surgery:
On the day of my operation, I was taken inside the operating room, all I remember was that I was given an infusion. When I opened my eyes, I found myself in a long corridor, along with seven or eight other women. There was no medical staff, doctors or nurses. It was a very cold day, and I was covered with only a thin bed sheet. No one was allowed to visit from outside. When I looked around I heard other women moaning from pain. Once the effect of the anaesthetic wore off, I felt a sharp pain in my lower abdominal. My husband wanted to be with me that day, but they refused. No family members were allowed to accompany anyone.
The Communist Party describes the camps as necessary to “save the people who are deceived by or even have joined terrorist forces,” even though Beijing has not offered any evidence that those imprisoned have ties to terrorist groups.