Sam Brownback is a lawyer, former United States Senator and former governor of the state of Kansas who has served as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom since February 2018.
He spoke with RFA Uyghur Service Director Alim Seytoff on June 5, the Muslim Eid holiday, about U.S. policies in response to the persecution underway in northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), where authorities have held an estimated 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas in a network of political “re-education camps” since April 2017.
RFA: More than one billion Muslims around the world are celebrating the Eid holiday with their families and friends. At the same time, more than one million Uyghurs are detained in China’s so-called political reeducation camps. The State Department last week called on China to release all the Uyghurs detained in the camps, but the Chinese government has not released them. What’s your message today to the Chinese government?
Brownback: This is a terrible mistake that they’ve made. They shouldn’t have done it. Locking up this many people of faith simply because they’re Muslims and the Chinese are trying to control the Muslim population in their country. We continue to call upon them to release these individuals. And the world has taken note, the world will take note, and there will be actions that follow this consequence of what China is doing. If you think about it, we’re in 2019 and we’re talking about internment camps and reeducation camps and these sort of things that sound like they should belong in the 1940s and 1950s, not where the world is today. I think this is a terrible mistake that the Chinese have made and we call upon them to release all the Uyghurs and to allow them to peacefully and freely practice their faith. Particularly in this season, where Ramadan is just over and it’s a celebratory time, the Chinese really should do the right thing. And it also sends a message to the world: If China is willing to do this to their own Muslim population, what do they think of Muslims around the world that peacefully practice their faith? A country the size of China—the biggest population in the world, the second biggest economy—they need to be far more interested in what they’re projecting to the world and what they think of people of faith. Particularly the Muslim faith, but they’re doing this to Christians, they’re doing this to Buddhists, they’re doing this to Falun Gong, across the board.