USA ‘weighing’ China sanctions for treatment of Uighur Muslims

Pedestrians walk past a mosque in Kashgar China

The UN and human rights organisation have expressed concerns over the issue.

The State Department on Tuesday expressed concern following reports of mass detentions of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims, which has prompted global outcry.

The bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin a letter two weeks ago urging them to adopt sanctions against government officials "complicit in human rights abuses" as well as entities that help the government to carry out "mass detentions and surveillance of ethnic minorities".

"The Chinese government protects people's freedom of religion and people of all ethnic groups are fully entitled to freedom of religion".

Nauert's comments follow the release of a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) Monday detailing allegations of indefinite, arbitrary detention.

The country is accused of running re-education camps, where Uighurs are forced to renounce aspects of their religious beliefs and ostensibly learn about Chinese culture.

"If they resist, or officials deem they have failed their lessons, they are punished".

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Up to 1 million people, or about 7 percent of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, have now been incarcerated in an expanding network of "political re-education" camps, according to US officials and United Nations experts.

The government has previously blamed anti-China forces for being behind criticism of its policies in Xinjiang.

And then on Tuesday, the ministry attacked the UN human rights chief: "the UN Human Rights High Commissioner and her office should abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, respect China's sovereignty, fairly and objectively fulfill its duties, and not listen to and believe one-sided information".

Reports had been received of "patterns of human rights violations in other regions", added Bachelet, a former Chilean president, calling for Beijing to permit access for her staff across China, saying she expected discussions to start soon.

Like Tibet, Xinjiang - which has a history of independent rule and largely non-Han Chinese population - has always been viewed with some suspicion by the authorities in Beijing, fearful it could become a hotbed of separatist, or in its case, Islamist organizing. The Uyghurs were forced to welcome officials into their homes, where they were subjected to "political education".

As many as 13 million Muslims living in the region are increasingly subjected to mass arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment by the Chinese government, the report noted.

Bachelet said a United Nations human rights panel has received credible reports that up to a million Uighurs in Xinjiang province have been detained without legal process by China and held in "re-education camps".

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