By Servet Gunerigok
WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday called on Central Asian countries to dismiss China's demands to repatriate Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic group from Xinjiang, in China’s west.
Pompeo was speaking at a meeting with foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The top diplomat asked his counterparts to cooperate on counterterrorism, highlighting handling of foreign terrorist fighters and their returns, prosecution and reintegration. He vowed U.S. support to assist the Central Asian nations while fighting terrorism.
"And further on the subject of terrorism, I want to make clear that China’s repressive campaign in Xinjiang is not about terrorism," said Pompeo. "It’s about China’s attempt to erase its own citizens’ Muslim faith and culture."
Up to one million people, or about seven 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 UN experts.
"We call on all countries to resist China’s demands to repatriate Uighurs," said Pompeo.
China’s Xinjiang region is home to around 13 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.