U.S. House Majority Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants Washington to “call out” Beijing for its mass incarceration of ethnic Uyghurs in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), signaling strong concern in Congress, where legislation has been introduced to hold those responsible to account.
Speaking at an event in Washington on Tuesday commemorating 60 years of exile by Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Pelosi said she had talked with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the conclusion of the U.S. National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 7 and urged him to bring up the issue of China’s political “re-education camps” in the XUAR with his counterparts in Beijing.
“When I went to the Prayer Breakfast the other day, [U.S. President Donald Trump] talked about religious freedom, and we all applauded … But afterwards, I went up to Secretary Pompeo and I said, ‘how come we’re not talking about the Uyghurs?’ and he said, ‘we should—let’s drum it up,’” Pelosi said.
She said that the camps, where more than 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas are believed to have been held since April 2017, are relevant to the situation in Tibet because Tibetans have endured “decades of repression of religion,” and Chinese authorities are now using the same tactics of cultural eradication in the XUAR.
“What has been happening in Tibet now is happening in the Uyghur region of China, and it has to be called out,” Pelosi warned.
“A million Uyghurs in [what is] effectively prison labor camps for the same purpose … assimilation. They want to purge the great individuality of the … culture there.”
According to Pelosi, Washington is obligated to bring up the Uyghur issue, and other examples of religious repression, with Beijing, and “shouldn’t hesitate because of any commercial interest with China.”
“If we don’t, we lose all moral authority to speak about human rights any place in the world,” she added.
Pelosi’s comments came on the same day that the Washington Post published an opinion piece by its editorial board calling on the international community to “demand justice” for the Uyghurs and other Muslims detained in camps in the XUAR.