U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that the United States remains concerned about reports of China’s harsh treatment of relatives of Uighur Muslim activists and survivors of Chinese internment camps.
In a statement released by the State Department, Pompeo said the U.S. is still “deeply troubled” by reports that the Chinese government has reportedly “harassed, imprisoned, or arbitrarily detained family members of Uighur Muslim activists and survivors of Xinjiang internment camps who have made their stories public.”
The top U.S. diplomat said some of the “abuses occurred shortly after meetings with senior State Department officials.”
Over the past few years, China has established complexes in Xinjiang that it maintains are “vocational training centers” designed to combat terrorism and extremism and to teach new skills.
Beijing denies any mistreatment of the Uighurs and maintains that the detainees are at the complexes voluntarily.
Many world leaders have criticized China for setting up the complexes, where the U.N. says at least 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained.
The U.S. government and human rights groups estimate 10 percent of the Uighur population is under detention.
The nonpartisan research group the Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimates there are 143 camps where Uighurs are detained.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused China of committing “rampant abuses,” including torture.
The U.S. last month broadened its trade blacklist to include top Chinese artificial intelligence startup companies. It also announced visa restrictions against Chinese government and Communist Party officials it believes are behind the detention or abuse of Muslim minorities in the region.
Pompeo also Tuesday called on Beijing to “cease all harassment of Uighurs living outside China…and to allow families to communicate freely without repercussions.”