Saudi crown prince defends China's use of concentration camps for Uighur Muslims

Published 23.02.2019 13:18
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman R attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping not pictured at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. AFP Photo
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (AFP Photo)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman turned a blind eye to the plight of China's Uighur Muslims when he met Friday with President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

The Uighur community both inside and outside China had expected bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia and custodian of Islam's holiest sites, to raise the issue of China's human rights violations against ethnic Uighurs.

Instead, he chose to side with China.

During his visit, Salman appeared to defend China's use of re-education camps for its country's Muslim population.

"We respect and support China's right to take counter-terrorism and de-extremism measures to safeguard national security. We stand ready to strengthen cooperation with China," bin Salman said, according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

Plight of Uighurs

China's Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45 percent of Xinjiang's population, has long accused China's authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.

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

In a report last September, Human Rights Watch accused the Chinese government of a "systematic campaign of human rights violations" against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

According to the 117-page report, the Chinese government conducted "mass arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment" of Uighur Turks in the region.

Turkey's position

Turkey earlier this month slammed China's systematic assimilation policy for Uighur Turks, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy calling it "a great embarrassment for humanity".

"It is no longer a secret that more than one million Uighur Turks, who are exposed to arbitrary arrest, are subjected to torture and political brainwashing in concentration centers and prisons," Aksoy said.

Turkey has urged China's authorities to respect the fundamental human rights of Uighur Turks and shut down the concentration camps, Aksoy said.

"We also call on the international community and U.N. Secretary General to take effective steps to end the human tragedy in Xinjiang," he added.

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