WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repudiated the crackdown on religious freedom in China at the hands of communist leader Xi Jinping in remarks Tuesday and Wednesday, stressing that persecution of Muslims and Christians has reached “historic proportions.”
On Tuesday, Pompeo told a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee:
We’ve been working on this [promoting religious freedom] all across the world. We’ve been speaking out recently about the challenges in China to religious freedom — not just the [predominantly Muslim] Uyghurs [or Uighurs] but even more broadly than that. The absence of religious freedom there is of historic proportions.
[China] is in a league of its own [when it comes to human rights violations]. The [oppression] work that began in Tibet is now being perfected in [Uighur-majority] Xinjiang [province] is Orwellian in nature. Our efforts are diplomatic that is we identify this as something the Chinese can’t continue to do.
On Wednesday, Pompeo again blasted the lack of human rights in China, particularly when it comes to religious minorities, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “I think the world was slow to recognize the challenge that China has begun to present . ..the challenge from the Orwellian nature of the absence of human rights inside of China … it’s not just Uighurs, it’s Kazakhs, it’s Christians, it’s broader than that.”
Although U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is engaged in efforts to convince China to stop persecuting religious minorities, there is much work to be done, Pompeo conceded Tuesday.
Referring to the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Xinjiang and other areas of China in “re-education” camps, he said:
There’s a great deal of more work to do. I am hopeful that we will get an increase in the number of Muslim nations who share our view that this is a gross violation of the human rights of Muslims in China and they will begin to work in the same way we are working to convince the Chinese not to continue these practices.
Turkey has been one of the few Muslim countries that have publicly spoken against China’s mistreatment of Islam adherents. Uighurs and other Turkic ethnic groups share cultural and linguistic similarities.
China has repeatedly denied assertions by the United States, Turkey, the United Nations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that Beijing has forced hundreds of thousands of religious minorities — predominantly Muslim Uighurs (or Uyghurs), but also Christians — into hundreds of so-called mind-transformation centers where the prisoners face systemic torture, disappearances, executions, and arbitrary detentions all in the name of communist indoctrination.
Beijing claims the so-called re-education centers, mainly located in Uighur Muslim majority Xinjiang province, are vocational and educational centers aimed at combatting terrorism and religious extremism. China argues that the centers are not focused on forcing minorities to pledge their full allegiance to the inherently atheist Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to erase their religious identity.
Xi, who also serves as the CCP chairman, has reportedly intensified his persecution of Christians in recent years as the religion’s popularity grows, closing churches, jailing pastors, and even rewriting scripture, the Guardian reported in January.
In its latest report on human rights in China released earlier this year, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) noted that last year Xi continued his campaign to “sinicize” [make more Chinese] the country’s ethnic and religious minorities.
During the year  the government significantly intensified its campaign of mass detention of members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang). Authorities were reported to have arbitrarily detained 800,000 to possibly more than two million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other Muslims in internment camps designed to erase religious and ethnic identities. … International media, human rights organizations, and former detainees reported security officials in the camps abused, tortured, and killed some detainees.
The government “sinicization” campaign resulted in ethnically based restrictions on movement, including curtailed ability of ethnic Uighurs to travel freely or obtain travel documents; greater surveillance and presence of armed police in Xinjiang; and legislative restrictions on cultural and religious practices.
According to DOS, Beijing has even sent some U.S. residents and American citizens to the camps, which have reportedly spread to areas in China beyond Xinjiang.