Beijing — China's government on Monday denounced U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for saying that Beijing is trying to erase Muslim culture in its northwest. A foreign ministry spokesman rejected Pompeo's comment at the United Nations that thewas unrelated to anti-terrorism activity.
The verbal jousting comes amid new evidence to challenge China's insistence that the hundreds of thousands of Uighurs are being "re-educated" in camps — not imprisoned.
Pompeo on Sunday called on Central Asian governments to reject Chinese demands that they send home ethnic minorities who might face repression in China. Pompeo said China is trying "to erase" minority cultures and religions.
The ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said Chinese activities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where Muslims are held in detention camps, are the same as de-radicalization efforts in other countries.
Geng complained that American politicians "slandered China's policy toward Xinjiang and grossly interfered in China's internal affairs."
"These measures are no different in nature from the deradicalization and preventive counterterrorism measures taken by many other countries, including the United States," Geng said at a regular news briefing. "The lies of U.S. politicians can't deceive the world and only further reveals their ulterior political goals."
But the Chinese government's latest defense of the Xinjiang camps comes on the heels of a claim by an Australian analyst who found video purportedly showing hundreds of Uighur men being herded like prisoners at a train station in the province.
Analyst Nathan Ruser, who works for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's International Cyber Policy Center, has studied satellite imagery for years in an effort to track the development of the secretive "re-education camps" in northwest China. On Saturday he posted a series of messages on Twitter explaining the technical means he used to conclude that the video was shot in August of 2018 at a train station near the city of Korla, in Xinjiang.
He said the video, shot by a drone and uploaded to a relatively new YouTube account on September 17, shows between 300 and 400 Uighur men, blindfolded and handcuffed, being closely guarded and led around a train station in Xinjiang.
Ruser said that while the Chinese government has taken "journalists and diplomats on very guided, very manicured tours around the region, to particular camps to highlight what they call progress and human rights in the region…this video undercuts and shows clearly the very inhumane treatment that detained individuals get in the system."
His report has gotten the attention of Australian officials.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne told Australian network ABC in response to their report highlighting Ruser's findings that the video was "deeply disturbing."
"I have previously raised Australia's concerns about reports of mass detentions of Uyghurs and other Muslim peoples in Xinjiang," ABC quoted Payne as saying on Monday. "We have consistently called for China to cease the arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other Muslim groups. We have raised these concerns — and we will continue to raise them — both bilaterally and in relevant international meetings."