A Chinese governor has accused the United States of hypocrisy over its counter-terrorism policies after the House of Representatives passed a bill that criticised China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims.
The bill called for a tougher response by the US to Beijing’s internment of up to 1 million Uighurs in camps in the western province of Xinjiang.
The province’s governor, Shohrat Zakir, told reporters in Beijing that the bill, passed last week in Washington, is a severe violation of international law and a gross interference in China’s affairs which amounts to a US smear campaign against his country.
"When the lives of people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang were seriously threatened by terrorism, the US turned a deaf ear," Zakir said. "On the contrary, now that Xinjiang society is steadily developing and people of all ethnicities are living and working in peace, the US feels uneasy, and attacks and smears Xinjiang."
China has repeatedly denied any mistreatment of Uighurs and insists the camps are part of counter-terrorism measures and provide vocational training. Human rights groups and former detainees have said conditions in the camps are poor, with inmates subject to psychological and physical abuse.
Mr Zakir said that the counter-terrorism measures in Xinjiang are no different from anti-terrorism measures in the US. Washington has detained suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba since 2002.
He also claimed that the US has turned a blind eye to Xinjiang’s social stability, and is launching a smear campaign against the region and using issues there to sow discord among ethnic groups in China, he added.
Mr Zakir, who is deputy secretary of the Xinjiang Communist Party, said any attempt to disable Xinjiang is doomed to fail.
At the news conference in Beijing, images of past violence were displayed in excerpts from an English-language documentary, Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang, aired on China’s state broadcaster CGTN.
The Uighur bill, which was passed in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, requires President Trump to condemn abuses against Muslims and calls for the closure of the camps in Xinjiang.
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It also calls on Mr Trump to impose sanctions for the first time on Chen Quanguo, a member of China’s powerful politburo, and secretary of Xinjiang’s Communist Party.
The row is the latest in a series of clashes between the US and China that has also included Congress passing a bill criticising the treatment of protesters in Hong Kong. The antagonism could complicate the prospects for a deal to end a 17-month long trade war between the countries.