U.S. Should Close Migrant 'Concentration Camps' Before Complaining About Xinjiang Abuses, Chinese Media Says

Chinese state media has reacted angrily to speeches from Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which lamented the lack of religious freedom and rampant human rights abuses in China.

At a Washington conference on Thursday, Pence and Pompeo delivered scathing assessments of the human rights abuses being committed in China, where more than 1 million Muslims are being held in "re-education" camps as part of Beijing's efforts to sinicize the restive western province of Xinjiang.

Pompeo said the campaign "is truly the stain of the century," while Pence said the American people would stand in solidarity with those being oppressed, Reuters reported.

Chinese state media—which is kept on a tight leash by the ruling Communist Party—hit back at the American leaders, accusing them of ignorance and hypocrisy.

An editorial in the China Daily newspaper—owned and operated by the Communist Party propaganda arm—was particularly cutting, and pointed to the ongoing human rights abuses committed by President Donald Trump's administration along the border with Mexico.

China Daily said Pompeo's "stain of the century" remark is more suited to the administration's migrant detention centers, which it noted had been described "by some as 'concentration camps.'"

Human rights groups and lawmakers have been visiting the U.S. detention centers. They have reported chronic overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, the spread of infectious illnesses and routine human rights abuses. Some also reported regular psychological torture inflicted by guards.

"Even the U.S. president has admitted, 'they're very crowded, in many cases,'" China Daily added.

As of May, just over 50,000 migrants were being detained in U.S. government facilities. In China, estimates range between 1 and 2 million. The re-education centers have also been described as "concentration camps," and the wider sinicization strategy as "ethnic cleansing."

The Chinese program runs in tandem with mass surveillance, the destruction of culturally important buildings like mosques, and the reconstruction of towns and cities to make residents easier to track and control.

The government has argued that the program is needed to fight terrorism and maintain national unity. While hundreds have been killed by Islamist and secessionist cells from the west of the country, foreign governments and human rights groups have argued that Beijing's response is disproportionate.

Regardless, China Daily suggested U.S. criticism of the project is the latest in a series of "many preposterous claims about human rights and religious issues as part of its box of tricks to interfere in the affairs of other countries."

It suggested, "To keep their audience, Pompeo and others should learn to pull something other than these tired old rabbits out of their hats."

China has mobilized a host of allies and fellow authoritarian nations to defend its re-education camps program. Thirty-seven nations signed a letter to the United Nations backing China's policy, among them Saudi Arabia, Russia and North Korea.

The letter was in response to a 22-country appeal to the United Nations to condemn China's repression of the population in Xinjiang. The letter was signed by the U.K, France and Germany, among others. The U.S. did not sign the letter because Trump withdrew the nation from the United Nations Human Rights Council last June.

China, US, re-education center, concentration camps
This photo taken on June 2, 2019 shows buildings at the Artux City Vocational Skills Education Training Service Center, believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained, near Kashgar in China's Xinjiang region. GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty