WASHINGTON – Amnesty International is demanding China end its campaign of “systematic repression” and reveal the whereabouts of nearly 1 million predominantly Muslim people who have been “arbitrarily detained” in the country’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
The organization released a report Sunday night that includes interviews with more than 100 people outside of China whose relatives reportedly have been tortured, detained, or forced into “re-education camps” from a rural region of northwest China, known as the XUAR.
The human rights group called on world leaders to stop the Chinese government’s “vicious campaign against ethnic minorities.”
“Governments across the world must hold the Chinese authorities to account for the nightmare unfolding in the XUAR,” Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s East Asia Director, said in a statement released Sunday with the report.
Even before Amnesty’s report, the plight of the Uighur had captured the attention of some Republicans in Congress.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., have urged the Trump administration to sanction the Chinese government, as well as any private companies engaged in or complicit with the human rights violations in the XUAR region. They said the Chinese government has created a “high-tech police state” in XUAR that allows for widespread, intrusive spying on citizens there.
“Muslim ethnic minorities are being subjected to arbitrary detention, torture, egregious restrictions on religious practice and culture, and a digitized surveillance system so pervasive that every aspect of daily life is monitored,” the two GOP lawmakers wrote to the Trump administration in August.
“Given the gravity of the situation, and the severity and scope of the rights abuses being perpetrated,” they wrote, “we urge you to apply … sanctions, and consider additional measures, against senior Chinese Government and Communist Party officials who oversee these repressive policies, including XUAR Party Secretary Chen Quanguo.”
In April, State Department officials met with six United States-based Uighur journalists who had reported on the Chinese crackdown. Heather Nauert, the agency’s spokeswoman, said the U.S. officials had raised “our deep concerns” about the situation with the Chinese government.
“We call on China to end their counterproductive policies and freely – and free all of those who have been arbitrarily detained,” Nauert said.
And just last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the persecution of the Uighurs in an address to religious conservatives.
“Hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of Uighurs are held against their will in so-called re-education camps, where they’re forced to endure severe political indoctrination and other awful abuses,” Pompeo said in his speech on Friday.
But Pompeo did not say what other actions the State Department might take against China.