The U.S. State Department published its annual report on global human rights abuses on Wednesday, spotlighting China’s mass detention of Uighur Muslims in the rollout. The head of the State Department human rights bureau compared China’s actions to the horrors of Stalin’s Russia and Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Furious Chinese officials responded by accusing the United States of “prejudice” and a “Cold War mentality.”
Ambassador Michael G. Kozak, the senior official at the State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, responded to a question about China’s human rights record by agreeing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the Chinese “are in a league of their own.”
“I mean, for me, you haven’t seen things like this since the 1930s of rounding up – I mean, in our – some estimations are in the millions of people – and then putting them into camps and trying – and torturing them, abusing them, and trying to basically erase their culture and their religion and so on from their DNA. It’s just remarkably awful,” he said.
Kozak noted the United States has been trying to raise international awareness of the Uighur oppression for years.
“I would say we’ve had maybe some success in that respect in that initially the Chinese Government was denying that there were any camps or that anything was going on,” he said.
“Now they’re saying, well, there are camps, but they’re some kind of labor training camps and that it’s all very voluntary and so on,” he continued. “That does not match the facts that we and others are seeing, but at least I think we’re starting to make them realize that there’s a lot of international scrutiny on this and none of it is good from their standpoint.”
“It’s one of the most serious human rights problems in the world today,” Kozak concluded.
The press pool apparently disagreed, because none of them asked any follow-up questions about China, instead bombarding Kozak with questions about Saudi Arabia and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The State Department human rights report was highly critical of Saudi Arabia and stated Khashoggi’s murder was perpetrated by Saudi government agents.
China’s Foreign Ministry responded on Thursday with a tirade against U.S. “ideological prejudice” and said a formal diplomatic complaint has been filed with Washington over the State Department report.
“Just as that in the previous years, the China-related content of this year’s report is full of ideological bias and void of facts, confounds the right with the wrong and makes unfounded accusations against China,” charged Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang.
Lu insisted China’s record on human rights is overwhelmingly positive and vowed Beijing will “forge ahead on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” saying:
The Chinese government attaches great importance to protecting and promoting human rights. Since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, in particular, over the past four decades of reform and opening-up, remarkable progress has been made in China’s human rights cause. On this topic, the Chinese people have the best say, and our achievements are there for all to see. We will continue to forge ahead on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics and make new strides along the way.
We urge the U.S. side to take off its tinted classes, abandon the cold-war mindset and ideological prejudice, view China’s human rights situation in an objective and fair manner, and stop using this issue to interfere in China’s internal affairs. We also advise the U.S. to reflect upon their own human rights situation at home and deal with their own issues first.
Somewhat awkwardly, Lu was then asked why China intervened at the U.N. Security Council to protect a murderous terrorist leader in Pakistan from sanctions. He claimed China needs more time to complete its “comprehensive and in-depth review” of the case before agreeing to sanctions. China has been protecting the same terrorist leader, Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammad organization, against sanctions since 2009.
The U.S. State Department on Thursday chastised Muslim nations, with the notable exception of Turkey, for failing to speak up for the million Uighurs languishing in Chinese re-education camps.
“We are, I can say, disappointed about the lack of response from members of the OIC and the lack of outspoken concern,” said Ambassador Kelley Currie, head of the State Department Office of Global Criminal Justice, referring to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the largest inter-governmental body in the Muslim world.
Currie spoke at U.S.-sponsored event focusing on the Uighurs at United Nations headquarters in Geneva. A Chinese diplomat “strongly objected” to the “anti-China side event sponsored by the U.S. mission” and insisted “there are no so-called concentration camps in Xinjiang,” the province where most of the Uighurs live.