US envoy for religious freedom Sam Brownback said on Friday that the Chinese government was “at war with faith” and has been misguided in Xinjiang policies that were essentially breeding terrorism.
At the start of a visit to Hong Kong, the lawyer and former governor of Kansas denounced the arbitrary detention of an estimated 1 million ethnic Muslims in camps in Xinjiang in China’s far west.
“The Trump administration is deeply concerned and considered it a deliberate attempt by Beijing to redefine and control these Muslim minority groups, [their] identity, culture and faith,” Brownback said.
He declined to discuss in detail the measures the US government would use in handling what he called a wide range of persecutions of faiths and religious freedoms in China.
Brownback said he would like unfettered access to internment camps in China, where he could speak to inmates freely rather than appear in stage-managed events arranged by Chinese officials.
He also criticised Beijing’s other religious policies, including the handling of Tibetan religious leadership succession and the clampdown on unofficial Christian churches.
“It seems that the Chinese government is at war with faith. It’s a war they will not win,” he said. “The Chinese Communist Party must hear the cry of its people for religious freedom.”
According to the US consulate, Brownback was expected to meet local religious leaders, members of faith communities, cultural and religious studies students and faculty staff in Hong Kong “to discuss efforts to counter Chinese influence in the fight to advance religious freedom”.
Brownback, a conservative Christian, will then travel to Taiwan for an Indo-Pacific-based regional forum on religious freedom on Monday.
At his Friday morning speech at the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Brownback also called on the immediate release of pastors Wang Yi and John Cao Sanqiang.
Wang, of Chengdu-based Early Rain Covenant Church, has been detained with his wife Jiang Rong in Decemberfor suspected incitement to subvert state power. Cao was sentenced to seven years in prison last March for “organising others to illegally cross border” into Myanmar where he carried out missionary work.
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