Scholars, religious leaders rebut Pompeo's remarks on Xinjiang

Editor's note: In response to  U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's irresponsible remarks on Xinjiang, nearly 100 scholars and religious leaders from Xinjiang have signed a joint letter to Pompeo, urging him to look at Xinjiang's situation in an unbiased, objective way. This is a translated version published initially on Tianshan Net.

Mr. Mike Pompeo,

Recently, we have noted that you have made several remarks about China, including false accusations against the ethnic, religious, and human rights situations in Xinjiang. As scholars and religious personnel in Xinjiang, we deeply regret your irresponsible and erroneous remarks.

For a period in the past, the rampant spread of extremism and a frequent outbreak of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang had caused severe damages to the safety and property of people from all ethnic groups there. At the time, just like what happened after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 in Manhattan, New York, people in Xinjiang were living in stress and terror every day.

In response to the strong calls for combating violent terrorist crimes, Xinjiang has combined crackdown on terrorism with preventive measures. Vigorous efforts have been made to fight violent terrorist crimes in accordance with the law. At the same time, to address the problem at its root, vocational education and training centers have been established in accordance with the law to educate law-breakers and those who have committed minor crimes, so as to eliminate the influence of terrorism and extremism on them and nip terrorist activities in the bud.

Now, Xinjiang enjoys hard-won social stability. No violent terrorist attacks have occurred in the past three years, and people have a much greater sense of security, fulfillment and happiness. In 2018 alone, the number of tourists to Xinjiang exceeded 150 million, including 2.4 million foreign tourists. Tourists from home and abroad speak highly of Xinjiang's economic and social achievements, saying that Xinjiang is a beautiful and safe place.

Visitors at the ancient city of Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, June 15, 2019. /VCG Photo

Visitors at the ancient city of Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, June 15, 2019. /VCG Photo

Your claim that the "persecution camps" in Xinjiang detain more than one million Muslim minorities is incomprehensible. We have made multiple visits to several centers. We saw with our own eyes the trainees learning the country's common language and legal knowledge and taking various vocational training courses on skills such as clothes processing, food processing and hairdressing in bright and spacious teaching buildings.

Besides, they are served with rich dishes in clean and tidy canteens, living in dormitory quarters equipped with TV, air conditioning and shower facilities, and enjoying colorful cultural lives on the sports courts or in the libraries. The trainees can have home visits each week and also can ask for leave to attend to private affairs. Their freedom is fully guaranteed.

Many of them are now aware of the true nature and harm of the extremist religious thoughts. They hate the atrocities committed by the "three forces," appreciate the education and redemption measures taken by the Party and government and feel fortunate for not falling victim to the violent terrorist activities. Many of them have found suitable jobs, putting the vocational skills they acquired in the training centers into good use. They get paid and can provide a good life for their families.

You said that Xinjiang is "butchering" the Uygur culture systematically. On what basis did you claim that? The Constitution of the People's Republic of China stipulates that the state protects the lawful rights and interests of every ethnic group, and helps ethnic minority regions achieve a faster pace of economic and cultural development.

Xinjiang has put a lot of efforts into the protection, inheritance, and promotion of each ethnic minority's culture. Courses on ethnic minority languages are provided by all the schools under the compulsory education system. Roza and Corban are designated as statutory festivals, and Meshrep, Twelve Muqams, and Qumuz Sing & Instrumental Play have been widely disseminated.

People dance to observe Eid al Adha, known in China as Corban Festival, one of Islam's most important holidays, in Kashgar, Xinjiang, September 1, 2017. /VCG Photo

People dance to observe Eid al Adha, known in China as Corban Festival, one of Islam's most important holidays, in Kashgar, Xinjiang, September 1, 2017. /VCG Photo

Xinjiang Radio and Television Station are broadcast in five languages, namely Mandarin, Uygur, Kazakh, Qirghiz and Mongolian. Xinjiang Daily is published in four languages of Mandarin, Uygur, Kazakh and Mongolian, and the numbers of newspapers and journals published in ethnic minority languages across Xinjiang have reached 51 and 116 respectively. The ever-increasing cultural needs of people of all ethnic groups have been met.

Your claims that Xinjiang is terminating Islamic beliefs and that the Chinese government severely persecutes believers of various religions are not based on facts at all. It is a longstanding basic policy of the Chinese government to respect and protect the freedom of religious belief.

Xinjiang has never associated the crackdown on terrorism and extremism with any specific ethnic group or religion. The local government of Xinjiang protects the normal religious activities and fulfills the reasonable religious demands of believers in accordance with the law.

In Xinjiang, there are 24,400 mosques and 29,000 religious clerics. There are 10 religious colleges, including the Xinjiang Islamic Institute, enrolling more than 1,300 students annually. In Xinjiang, for every 530 Muslims, there is one mosque, a figure that exceeds many Muslim countries. In recent years, the local government in Xinjiang has dramatically improved the basic conditions of the mosques, which now come with water, electricity, access to roads, natural gas, telecommunications, radio, television, library, and pre-worship cleansing facilities. Those efforts have been praised by religious personnel and Muslims.

Your claim that China has stepped up mass surveillance in Xinjiang is even more absurd. Installing surveillance facilities in public areas is a common practice adopted by countries around the world to maintain public security. In the U.S., surveillance cameras are installed in both big and small cities, and in its 20 big airports, travelers are even asked to pass through facial recognition scanners. So why are the monitoring devices in Xinjiang regarded as "surveillance"? This is utterly double standards!

We urge the U.S. to view the ethnic, religious and human rights situations in Xinjiang in an unbiased and objective way, immediately stop fabricating lies and slanders about Xinjiang, and immediately stop using Xinjiang-related issues to interfere in China's internal affairs.

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