Jakarta: China is the “gravest threat” to the future of religious freedom, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday, in his latest verbal assault on Beijing during a whirlwind Asian tour.
Pompeo made the attack on China the focus of his visit this week, which started in India and included visits to Sri Lanka, Maldives, Indonesia and Vietnam next Friday.
In Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, Pompeo has targeted China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslims.
“The gravest threat to the future of religious freedom is the Chinese Communist Party s war against people of all faiths: Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, and Falun Gong practitioners alike,” Pompeo said in a speech Thursday to major Muslim organisation the Nahdlatul Ulama.
“The atheist Chinese communist party has tried to convince the world that its brutalisation of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang is necessary as counter-terrorism or poverty alleviation,” he added.
Human rights groups say that as Beijing tries to forcibly integrate the community and eradicate its Islamic heritage, more than one million Uighurs are struggling in refugee camps in northwestern Xinjiang.
China denies these figures and describes the refugee camps as vocational centers that provide vocational skills that can prevent the temptation of Islamic radicalism after a series of attacks.
“But we know that there is no counter-terrorism justification in forcing Uighur Muslims to eat pork during Ramadan, or destroying a Muslim cemetery,” Pompeo said.
“There is no poverty-alleviation justification for forced sterilisations, or taking children away from their parents to be re-educated in state-run boarding schools.”
Pompeo rejected what he called Beijing s “fantastic tales of happy Uighurs”.
“The Chinese Communist Party has tried to convince Indonesians to look away from the torments your fellow Muslims are suffering… Search your hearts. Look at the facts,” he said.
“Think about what you know of how an authoritarian government treats those who resist its rule.”
China is Indonesia’s largest trading partner, and Beijing’s criticism of Uighurs has been weak in Southeast Asian countries.