WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday denounced China's "shameful hypocrisy" over its treatment of Muslims as he met a former prisoner and relatives who recounted abuses as part of Beijing's widespread detention of its Uighur minority.
"China must release all those arbitrarily detained and end its repression," Pompeo tweeted.
"The world cannot afford China's shameful hypocrisy toward Muslims. On one hand, China abuses more than a million Muslims at home, but on the other, it protects violent Islamic terrorist groups from sanctions at the UN," he said.
Pompeo was referring to China's efforts at the United Nations to prevent the blacklisting of Islamist extremist Masood Azhar, based in Beijing ally Pakistan. Azhar's group Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility over a deadly attack last month on Indian troops in Kashmir that triggered military skirmishes.
The top US diplomat met Tuesday with Mihrigul Tursun, a Uighur who has spoken publicly in the United States about what she said was widespread torture in China's prisons for the minority group.
She has said she was separated from her children and detained in a cramped cell with 60 other women, suffering electrocution and beatings during round-the-clock interrogations.
The State Department said that Pompeo also met with three other Uighurs whose relatives are held by China, which according to a UN report has detained a massive one million Uighurs as it seeks forcibly to integrate the minority group.
Pompeo, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, said that "certainly" at least hundreds of thousands of Uighurs had been detained.
"We're working to convince the Chinese that this practice is abhorrent and ought to be stopped," Pompeo said.
According to the State Department as well as international human rights groups, China has confiscated Korans from Uighurs and forced them to drink alcohol and eat pork, which are forbidden by Islam.
"It's one of the most serious human rights problems in the world today," State Department official Michael Kozak said of the Uighurs' detention as he presented the latest annual human rights report.
China denies the accounts of mass detention, saying it is running educational training centers as part of a fight against Islamic extremism in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.