US has no evidence China is freeing members of the oppressed Muslim minority Uyghurs group in the country’s northwest, US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said Wednesday.
“We have no evidence that they’ve been released, and even if they were released, they’re released into a virtual police state that China has created,” Brownback told reporters at the State Department.
His remarks came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom that discusses the status of religious freedom in every country.
“It is a horrific situation, and our big concern here is that this is the future of what oppression’s going to look like, is what it looks like for the Uyghurs when they get out of the prison camps,” he said.
Even if released, said the ambassador, the Uyghurs are going to face “cameras and identification” and “oppression” when they want to practice their faith.
“In many of these places, you’re fine if you want to do anything – you want to get an education, fine. You want to work, fine. You’re – anything – but if you want to practice your faith, it’s a no go.
“And if you do, there will be consequences for you and anybody else that pings you on your cell phone. These are the things that is the virtual police state that we’re very concerned about it being the future of – beyond Xinjiang,” he added.
He said a number of workers have been put into forced labor facilities in Xinjiang.
According to the report, the Chinese government sought the forcible repatriation of Uyghurs and other Muslims from foreign countries and detained some of those who returned.
It said satellite imagery and other sources indicated the government destroyed mosques, cemeteries and other religious sites.
The report also said individuals died as a result of injuries sustained during interrogations by the authorities in Xinjiang.
China’s Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uyghurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45% of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused China’s authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.
Up to a million people, or about 7% of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, have been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to US officials and UN experts.
In a report last September, Human Rights Watch accused the Chinese government of a “systematic campaign of human rights violations” against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
According to the 117-page report, the Chinese government conducted “mass arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment” of Uyghur Turks in the region.
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