Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud became the first foreign top diplomat to visit China in 2022 on Monday, meeting with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to discuss what Wang described as “high-level China-Saudi Arabia comprehensive strategic partnership.”
Chinese state media claimed the Saudi official “firmly supports” China’s ongoing genocide of Muslim-majority ethnic grounds in East Turkistan, an occupied region Beijing refers to as Xinjiang. While Saudi reports of the same meeting between Wang and Prince Faisal omitted any references to the Uyghur genocide, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has praised China’s violent erasure of the Islamic faith from its soil in the past.
Saudi Arabia is home to the holiest sites in Islam, the cities of Mecca and Medina. As the “custodian of the two mosques,” the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman, is one of the most powerful and influential people in the Islamic world.
The top Saudi diplomat was in Wuxi, China, on Monday in anticipation of talks between Chinese officials and representatives of states from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), namely Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain.
“As the first foreign minister to arrive in China in the new year, your visit reflects the high-level China-Saudi Arabia comprehensive strategic partnership,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly said Monday, according to the Chinese government propaganda outlet Global Times.
Wang reportedly credited Riyadh for defending the Muslim genocide in East Turkistan.
“[A]s an important Islamic country, Saudi Arabia upholds justice on the Xinjiang issue and opposes the interference into China’s domestic affairs, which China highly appreciates,” Wang was quoted as saying, “adding its gratitude toward Saudi Arabia for standing with China to hold the Beijing 2022 Games.”
The Saudi foreign minister, in turn, reportedly affirmed, “China is Saudi Arabia’s important strategic and development partner and Saudi Arabia firmly supports the one China Principle, as well as China’s proper position on Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and human rights issues.”
The Chinese government views the “proper position” on China’s human rights issues as disregarding Beijing’s abuses against its people entirely, if not actively supporting them.
The meetings between Chinese officials and Gulf state counterparts are largely an economic event, the Chinese Foreign Ministry outlined on Monday.
“As China has embarked on a new journey of fully building a modern socialist country and GCC countries are actively advancing social and economic development across the board,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters. “The relations between China and GCC countries are standing at a new historical starting point with broad prospects ahead.”
“We believe the visit by Foreign Ministers of GCC member states and GCC Secretary General will further deepen the relationship between China and GCC countries,” he concluded, “and promote exchanges and cooperation in various sectors so as to deliver more outcomes to the benefit of the people in China and GCC countries.”
The Saudi government-owned outlet al-Arabiya reported on the meeting between Wang and Prince Faisal without mentioning any discussion of the Uyghur genocide. The outlet instead focused on “economic and security matters” and discussions surrounding the threat that Iran presents to Saudi Arabia. Iran is an ally of China’s but longtime political rival and threat to Saudi Arabia; the two are engaged in a proxy war in Yemen.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia also failed to mention “the Xinjiang issue” or anything related to the rights of Muslims in China in its commentary on social media about the meeting. The ministry posted photos of Prince Faisal alongside Wang and praised the “strong friendship” between the two authoritarian countries.
“The two sides discussed many regional and international issues of common interest, foremost of which is the promotion of security and stability in the Middle East,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry reported. “The two sides discussed ways to open new horizons for the strategic friendship between the two countries, through the high-level Sino-Saudi Joint Committee and its work, coordination and strategic planning in many areas, in light of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.”
#الصين | سمو وزير الخارجية الأمير #فيصل_بن_فرحان @FaisalbinFarhan يلتقي معالي مستشار الدولة وزير خارجية جمهورية الصين الشعبية السيد وانغ يي، وذلك خلال زيارة سموه الرسمية إلى مدينة ووشي جنوب الصين pic.twitter.com/7HmJfVk6s6
— وزارة الخارجية 🇸 (@KSAMOFA) January 10, 2022
“Vision 2030” is Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s sprawling economic and social program meant to diversify the country’s economy away from oil dependence and enrich it through allowing higher levels of trade with foreign countries. The Saudi government describes the plan as a “unique transformative economic and social reform blueprint that is opening Saudi Arabia up to the world.”
Bin Salman has endeavored to bring Saudi Arabia into China’s orbit, particularly economically, for years. The crown prince visited Beijing in 2019 and issued a statement of support for exterminating the Muslim people of East Turkistan under the guise of “anti-terrorism.”
“We respect and support China’s rights to take counter-terrorism and de-extremism measures to safeguard national security. We stand ready to strengthen cooperation with China,” Bin Salman said at the time, according to Chinese state media. Saudi authorities never refuted the quote.
China is currently imprisoning hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Muslims – mostly Uyghurs, but also members of the Kazakh and Kyrgyz communities – in concentration camps in Xinjiang. Survivors of the camps say they endured extreme communist indoctrination, torture, rape, and slavery. Many testified to explicitly being forced to renounce Islam and eat pork, contrary to their faith.
Outside of the camps, the Communist Party has banned the practice of Ramadan in Xinjiang, forcing Muslims to eat pork instead of fasting, and bulldozed thousands of mosques, many of them of historic significance to the Uyghur community. The Communist Party has replaced some of these mosques with hotels and toilets.
Saudi authorities arrested a Uyghur man, Setiwaldi Abdukadir, in Mecca in October for sporting a t-shirt reading “pray for the end of China’s genocide & occupation in East Turkistan,” releasing him only shortly after being notified that Abdukadir was a U.S. citizen. His son, Prime Minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile Salih Hudayar, told Breitbart News that Saudi police explicitly told his father that he was “damaging Saudi Arabia’s relationship with China.”
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