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Pakistan criticizes China over repression of Muslim Uighur minority



n Uighur woman protests in front of policemen at a street on July 7, 2009 in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region, China.
Uighur woman protests in front of policemen in Urumqi, Xinjiang,
in July 2009.

Guang Niu/Getty

  • China has subjected its Uighur population, a
    majority-Muslim ethnic minority, to an unprecedented amount of
    surveillance and policing.
  • Beijing has insisted that this helps counter terrorism and
    prevent religious radicalism.
  • But earlier this week Pakistan’s federal minister openly
    criticized those policies, saying that they actually fuel
    religious extremism.
  • It is the strongest condemnation of China’s actions from a
    Muslim ally yet.
  • Pakistan is China’s closest ally in the Muslim

Pakistan, China’s closest ally in the Muslim world, openly
criticized its treatment of its Uighur population, a
majority-Muslim ethnic minority living in the western Chinese
region in Xinjiang, earlier this week.

It marks the strongest condemnation of China’s repression of the
population yet.

Noorul Haq Qadri, Pakistan’s federal minister for religious
affairs, warned that Beijing’s strict regulation of Uighur
activity fuels extremism rather than counters terrorism,
Pakistani media reported.

“The placement of restrictions increases the chances of an
extremist viewpoint growing in reaction,” Qadri told China’s
ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Xing, on Wednesday according to Dawn

His comments directly challenge China’s justification of its

crackdown on Xinjiang
— known to Uighurs as East Turkestan —
which are that it counters terrorism and is
people to avoid religious extremism.

noorul haq qadri
federal minister for religion, Noorul Haq Qadri, in


Qadri on Wednesday also called for a softer approach from Beijing
to curb intolerance and promote religious harmony in
The Nation newspaper reported

He also proposed for Pakistani religious scholars to visit

Yao appeared to agree, reportedly saying: “Exchange of
viewpoints between religious scholars of both countries is vital
for better interfaith relations.”

Yao also invited Qadri to visit China, Dawn reported, although
it’s not clear whether this would entail a trip to Xinjiang.

Xinjiang checkpoint
walk through a security checkpoint in Hotan Bazaar, Xinjiang,
beneath a screen showing Chinese President Xi Jinping in November

AP Photo/Ng Han

Rights activists in turn have accused China of imprisoning up to
1 million Uighurs in detention centers or re-education camps, and
citing bogus excuses —
from changing the time on a watch to growing a beard
— for
doing so.

Li Xiaojun, a spokesman for China’s state council information
office, told reporters last week that sending Uighurs to
detention centers was “not mistreatment,” but “to establish
professional training centers, educational centers.”

“If you do not say it’s the best way, maybe it’s the necessary
way to deal with Islamic or religious extremism,” Li
said, according
to Reuters
. “Because the West has failed in doing so, in
dealing with religious Islamic extremism.”

“Look at Belgium, look at Paris, look at some other European
countries,” he added, referring to terrorist attacks in Brussels
and Paris carried out by Islamic extremists in 2015 and 2016.
“You have failed.”

Beijing has also repeatedly insisted that Xinjiang residents

lived in harmony
and enjoyed religious freedom.

Read more:

How a Chinese region that accounts for just 1.5% of the
population became one of the most intrusive police states in the

xi jinping imran khan
composite image of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistan
Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Images; Reuters

The strongest criticism from China’s biggest Muslim ally

Whether China will allow Islamic scholars into Xinjiang is not
clear, and the likelihood of its curbing its surveillance on
Uighurs is unlikely — Beijing
told the UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, to back
after she called for international monitors to be let
into Xinjiang earlier this month.

But the fact that Pakistan brought up the Uighur issue to China
is worth noting. Qadri’s comments marked the strongest
criticism China has received from a Muslim nation over its Uighur

The Muslim world has been deafeningly silent even as more and
more reports of China’s repression of Uighurs emerged over the
past year.

Experts have told Business Insider that this is likely because
they don’t want to jeopardize their economic relationships with
China — particularly as China pours more and more money into the

Belt and Road Initiative
, which aims to link China to more
than 70 countries around the world via railroads, shipping lanes,
and other infrastructure.

one belt one road land sea routes
showing the projects subsumed under the Belt and Road Initiative
as of December 2015.


Turkey spoke out against China’s treatment of Uighurs in 2009 and
2015, which resulted in Beijing repeatedly warning Istanbul not
to “twist facts” or “poison ties and derail cooperation” between
the two countries.

Whether Islamabad will suffer the same fate is not clear.
Pakistan is China’s biggest economic ally in the Muslim world,
with the two countries forming in 2013 the China-Pakistan
Economic Corridor — a massive
$62 billion partnership
consisting of transport and energy

China has invested between $1 trillion and $8 trillion in its BRI
deals around the world, according to the Center
for Strategic and International Studies
. The BRI is one of Xi
Jinping’s pet projects.

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