China Invites Pompeo to Visit Xinjiang, Says There Are No Rights Abuses

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson has invited Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to visit the western region of Xinjiang, following the latest round of U.S. sanctions on Chinese officials accused of involvement in the oppression of Muslim minority groups in the restive province.

Hua Chunying told reporters during a daily briefing Thursday that there were no human rights abuses taking place in Xinjiang, where China is accused of a cultural genocide against minority ethnic communities.

Reuters reported that Hua also urged the U.S. to take a more amicable approach to Chinese relations, warning that if Washington, D.C. considers everything Beijing does as a threat, the attitude would become self-fulfilling. Hua said China does not seek to challenge or replace the U.S.

China is believed to have imprisoned around 1 million people from Uyghur and other Muslim minority communities at re-education camps in Xinjiang. Detainees are reportedly forced to undergo ideological indoctrination to ensure loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. This includes expunging community beliefs and traditions, whether religious or otherwise.

Former inmates have described a wide range of human rights abuses in the camps taking place in inhumane conditions. Reporters allowed into supposed detention camps are shown carefully choreographed examples of daily life there, framing the centers as vocational and voluntary facilities designed to improve the lives of Xinjiang residents.

Outside the camps, Chinese authorities have turned Xinjiang into an Orwellian surveillance state. Residents are constantly under scrutiny for any perceived sign of disloyalty to the CCP, with officials keeping watch via advanced telecommunications and facial recognition software, underpinned by invasive inspections by security services.

Meanwhile, towns and cities have been redesigned to make surveillance easier. Mosques, cemeteries and other suspect cultural sites have been bulldozed to erase local identity and make it easier for authorities to instil the CCP's message.

Beijing says the camps are required to fight terrorism in the region. Separatist and Islamist militants from Xinjiang have launched multiple deadly attacks in China, including high-profile knife attacks that have killed dozens in the province and further afield. Critics of the indoctrination program say the regime's reaction is disproportionate.

U.S.-Chinese relations have deteriorated in recent years amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, trade tensions, territorial disputes and human rights abuses in both Xinjiang and Hong Kong. The Trump administration is now taking steps to block Chinese technology companies from the U.S. market and sanction officials accused of abusing human rights.

This includes those involved in the suppression of Xinjiang. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced visa restrictions on a group of officials he accused of overseeing "forced labor, arbitrary mass detention, and forced population control, and attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith" in the province.

"The United States is taking action today against the horrific and systematic abuses in Xinjiang and calls on all nations who share our concerns about the CCP's attacks on human rights and fundamental freedoms to join us in condemning this behavior," Pompeo said.

Mike Pompeo, China, Xinjiang, sanctions, human rights
This photo taken on June 2, 2019 shows a propaganda painting depicting a hammer squashing terrorists, on the wall of a military hospital near Kashgar, in China's northwest Xinjiang region. GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images/Getty