Mike Pompeo stresses Hong Kong autonomy, urges global censure of China over ‘brutal treatment of Uygurs’

Jodi Xu Klein

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday reaffirmed the American government's support for Hong Kong’s autonomy and called on the international community to condemn China over its “brutal treatment” of Uygur Muslims.

At a Washington press conference, the top US diplomat attacked Beijing’s policies against the Uygurs, who largely live in the Xinjiang autonomous region in China’s northwest, as “part of the [Communist] Party’s broader war on faith”.

“We are asking all countries, particularly those belonging to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League, to denounce the Chinese Communist Party’s brutal treatment of Uygurs,” Pompeo said.

More than a million of the group have reportedly been sent to mass detention centres in Xinjiang.

Luo Huining, head of the Chinese Hong Kong liaison office, with Chief Executive Carrie Lam on December 3. Pompeo derided Luo’s expressed hope that China would return to the “right track”. Photo: Handout

Pompeo applauded a January 2 statement by Bahrain’s Council of Representatives expressing “deep concerns over the inhumane and painful conditions to which Uygur Muslims in China are subjected”.

Bahrain appealed to the international community to “play its role and responsibilities, and save the lives of innocent Uygur Muslims”.

“The Chinese Communist Party is committing mass human rights violations and abuses against Uygurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other Muslims held in detention in Xinjiang,” Pompeo said at the conference.

Commenting on China’s recent appointment of Luo Huining as the head of the Chinese Hong Kong liaison office, Pompeo noted that Luo has “expressed hopes that Hong Kong will return to the right path”.

But “the right path, as I said before, is for the Chinese Communist Party to honour its commitment made to Hong Kong in the Sino-British Joint Declaration filed at the United Nations”, the secretary said.

He urged China to honour “the commitment that guarantees the territory’s independent rule of law and freedoms that the Chinese living on the mainland unfortunately do not enjoy”.

“We will continue to work with Hong Kong and Chinese Communist Party officials to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy,” Pompeo said.

In November, US President Donald Trump signed into law the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, brushing off multiple warnings by China against the potential repercussions of such a move.

Among other mandates, the law will allow Washington to suspend Hong Kong’s special trading status if the city fails to retain a sufficient degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework in the eyes of the US State Department.

The bill also empowers the State Department to sanction people deemed responsible for acts that undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy from mainland China, and directs US officers not to deny visas to individuals who have been subjected to “politically motivated” arrests or detention in the city.

In December, The Global Times, a state-run mainland newspaper, dismissed the US moves as a response to “China's rise as a threat and challenge”.

The US government’s concerns led to it “launching a trade war against China and piling pressure on the country under the pretext of so-called human rights issues in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, so as to contain China's development”, the newspaper said.

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