The Jakarta Post
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appealed to Muslims in Indonesia to speak up against China’s alleged human rights abuses against the Uighur minority -- a move likely to draw a wedge among Indonesian Islamic communities.
Pompeo spoke at an event hosted by GP Ansor, the youth wing of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama, on Thursday – coinciding with the celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (Maulid).
During the event, the US secretary called out the Chinese Communist Party’s “war against the people of all faiths.”
“The atheist Chinese Communist Party has tried to convince the world that its [reeducation] program for Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang is necessary as a part of its counterterrorism efforts and poverty alleviation,” Pompeo said. “But we know there is no justification for destroying a Muslim cemetery or taking children away from their parents.”
The American top diplomat pointed out to Muslims in Indonesia that China’s justification for counterterrorism measures should not include “forcing Uighur Muslims to eat pork during Ramadan or destroying a Muslim cemetery.”
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“I know that the Chinese Communist Party tried to convince Indonesians to look away from the torments. […] I know that these same CCP officials have spun fantastic tales of happy Uighurs eager to discard their ethnic religious and cultural identities to become more modern and enjoy the benefits of CCP-led development,” Pompeo said.
“When you hear these arguments, I'd just ask you to do this, search your hearts. Look at the facts. Listen to the tales of the survivors and of their families, think about what you know of how authoritarian governments treat those who resist its rule,” he went on to say.
Pompeo’s comment was a subtle swipe at a number of closely monitored junkets inviting various Indonesian Muslim groups to Xinjiang last year.
Fifteen representatives from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), NU and Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah visited Xinjiang for a week in February 2019 on a tour organized by Beijing. They were given limited access to see facilities in Hotan and Kashgar that many rights groups claim are detention camps.
Since then, NU leadership has dismissed the Uighur cause, with chairman Said Aqil Siradj previously saying there was no need for Indonesia to raise any concerns over alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang.
Responding to Pompeo’s remark, NU supreme council secretary-general Yahya Cholil Staquf, who organized Thursday event, said NU had yet to have a final stance regarding the Uighur Muslims case as there was a US-China rivalry bias surrounding it.
“We need more information to apprehend the real situation. However, if there is proven to be a violation of human rights [in Xinjiang], we will not remain silent,” he said, as quoted by Antara.
Read also: China, US in new spat over Uighur crackdown
Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia Xiao Qian also responded to Pompeo’s statement and called the US “a troublemaker in the Islamic world.”
He claimed in a statement that China’s Constitution protects citizens’ right to freedom of religion as well as the lawful rights and interests of ethnic groups, including the one in Xinjiang. The ambassador also called China “a true friend to the Islamic world” thanks to its “firm support for the Palestinian people.”
“By contrast, the US administration has issued the 'Muslim ban', overlooked legitimate interests of Palestine, instigated color revolutions in the Islamic world, waged proxy warfare and invaded other nations with trumped-up charges. It has brought instability, turmoil, division, poverty and prolonged sufferings to the Islamic world,” Xiao said in a statement.