Speaking at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club in Hong Kong on Friday, the ambassador, a former US senator, said in recent years there had been increasing discrimination against Catholics, Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists across China.
“What does the Chinese Communist Party have to fear from its faithful people? Why can’t it trust its people with the Bible? Why can’t Uyghur children be named Mohammad? Why can’t the Tibetans choose and venerate their own religious leaders like they have for more than a thousand years?” Brownback said.
Brownback said Friday the detentions of Uyghurs were “arbitrary” and based on their religious practices. “We need to call these camps what they are — they’re internment camps, created to wipe out the cultural and religious identity of minority communities,” he said.
Contrary to China’s claims, Brownback said the inmates are subject to “physical and psychological torture, intense political indoctrination and forced labor.” Rather than solving an extremism crisis as China alleges, “they are creating one,” Brownback said.
Brownback isn’t alone in condemning the Xinjiang camps. In February, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry prominently denounced the “torture and political brainwashing” in a statement, asking for the UN to intervene.
When asked by journalists, Brownback said the US administration didn’t “discuss internal matters” about possible action against China over Xinjiang. He said his staff had requested access to the camps and be turned down.
But he said he didn’t want to go to the camps just to “get a show,” he wanted to be able to go inside and talk to the inmates freely.
“I get regularly now, every week, list of names of people that are held in prison in internment camps in Xinjiang from concerned family members. Dozens, hundreds of names from people who are seeking just to know what’s happening with their relatives,” he said.