U.S. criticizes China’s repression of Uyghurs

The United States expressed growing concern about China’s repression of Uyghurs and other Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang), including detention of relatives of Washington-based Uyghur reporters for Radio Free Asia.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Chinese authorities have threatened and detained dozens of family members simply because the journalists were “doing their job.”

She said the U.S. is increasingly concerned about excessive restrictions on freedom of religion, widespread detentions and unprecedented levels of surveillance in China. State Department officials estimate that tens to hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs have been detained in “re-education” centers for indefinite periods in Xinjiang.

Nauert met with Uyghur journalists for Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur broadcasting service whose families in China have been threatened. Uyghurs, who are Muslim, form a majority in Xinjiang, where Chinese authorities have cracked down on dissent in the name of combating terrorism.

“We call on China to end their counterproductive policies and free all of those who have been arbitrarily detained,” she said, adding that the U.S. is also concerned about China’s efforts to pressure other governments to forcibly return Uyghurs to China.

Radio Free Asia, funded by the U.S. government through the independent Broadcasting Board of Governors, broadcasts domestic news and information to listeners in China, Tibet, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Burma. The Uyghur journalists have reported extensively on the high level of repression in the autonomous region.