U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has renewed calls for the Chinese regime to end its detention of more than 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities after meeting with a survivor and relatives of prisoners on March 27.
“We call on the Chinese government to release immediately these individuals’ family members and all others arbitrarily detained in the camps,” the State Department said in a statement about Pompeo’s meeting.
Pompeo met with four Uyghurs including survivor Mihrigul Tursun, a woman who has spoken publicly about her experiences of being tortured and abused at an internment camp in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province.
In November 2018, Tursun testified before a U.S. congressional committee that she was given unknown drugs and electrocuted while tied to a chair during her detainment in one of China’s so-called “vocational re-education centers.”
Pompeo also met with three other Uyghurs, whose relatives have either been detained or criminally sentenced in China.
The United Nations estimates that the communist regime is holding more than 1 million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps, where prisoners undergo political indoctrination and are forced to renounce their faith. Beijing has used the pretext of “extremist threats” to justify such measures.
Peter Irwin, program manager at the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), said Pompeo’s meeting shows that the U.S. government places great importance on the Uyghur issue, in an email to The Epoch Times.
“It must also be said that the Uyghur issue, and human rights more broadly, must remain a central element to engagement with China and not be overtaken by issues of trade or geopolitics,” Irwin added.
Pompeo, at a March 26 press briefing, described the Chinese regime’s treatment of Uyghurs as “historic human rights abuse.”
“We’re working to convince the Chinese that this practice is abhorrent and ought to be stopped,” he told reporters.
Irwin added that WUC will continue to work with supportive governments to bring to light the plight of Uyghurs in China.
“It is critical that a broad coalition of states join together to condemn China’s abuse of Uyghurs to show that no international community will stand by while crimes against humanity are being perpetrated as we speak,” he said.
Uyghur and Kazakhstan national Gulbakhar Jalilova, 54, a former detainee, told The Epoch Times in December 2018 that detained Uyghurs were psychologically and physically tortured, poisoned, and even killed by injection of unknown drugs.
Another former Uyghur detainee, a Kazakhstan national aged 54, who spoke to The Epoch Times in 2018 on condition of anonymity, said young girls were being raped inside these camps and were given pills to stop them from becoming pregnant.
Beyond the camps, Uyghurs also face harassment from local Chinese authorities. Radio Free Asia reported in February that Uyghurs were forced to eat pork and drink alcohol, both of which are strictly forbidden in Islam.
In addition, more than 10 million Uyghur and other Turkic minorities in Xinjiang are subject to intense monitoring via a dense network of surveillance systems and security checkpoints.
In November 2018, Reuters reported that the Trump administration was considering sanctions against Chinese officials and companies with ties to the regime in the region.
Around the same time, bipartisan legislation was introduced in both the Senate and the House calling for a stronger U.S. response to the regime’s suppression, including an export ban on U.S. technology that could be used in surveillance in the region, and sanctions against culpable Chinese officials.
In early March, State Department official Michael Kozak, in a briefing presenting the department’s annual human rights report, said that abuses like those currently being committed against China’s Muslim minority had not been seen “since the 1930s.”