September 22, 2019 / 3:31 PM / 3 months ago

Pompeo urges world to resist China's demands to repatriate ethnic Uighurs

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks ahead of a meeting with the foreign ministers of the Central Asian states on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 22, 2019. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday called on all countries to resist China’s demands to repatriate ethnic Uighurs, saying Beijing’s campaign in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang was an “attempt to erase its own citizens.”

U.N. experts and activists say at least 1 million Uighurs, and members of other largely Muslim minority groups, have been detained in camps in the remote Xinjiang region.

“Further on the subject of terrorism, I want to make clear that China’s repressive campaign in Xinjiang is not about terrorism. It’s about China’s attempt to erase its own citizens. ...We call on all countries to resist China’s demands to repatriate the Uighurs,” he told reporters.

He made the comments after a meeting with the foreign ministers of five Central Asian countries - Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan - in New York ahead of the United Nations General Assembly this week, during which Washington is expected to confront China over the issue.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will host an event on Tuesday on the “human rights crisis in Xinjiang” in China, diplomats said on Friday.

The United Nations says at least 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained in Xinjiang. Beijing describes complexes in Xinjiang as “vocational training centers” helping to stamp out extremism and give people new skills.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has considered sanctions against Chinese officials, including Xinjiang’s Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo, a member of the Chinese leadership’s powerful Politburo, since last year, but has held off amid Beijing’s threats of retaliation.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Lisa Shumaker

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