The United States on Wednesday criticised China for its alleged human rights violations, claiming that the country was in a “league of its own” where rights abuses were concerned. The US maintained that China had “significantly intensified its campaign of mass detention of members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang”.

China’s northwestern Xinjiang region is home to more than 10 million members of the Uyghur Muslim minority group. Several reports have suggested that the Uyghur community is being discriminated against and about two million people have been forced into “political camps for indoctrination” in the region.

“There’s China, which is in a league of its own when it comes to human rights violations,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as he released the annual report on human rights, evaluating 200 countries. “In just 2018, China intensified its campaign of detaining Muslim minority groups at record levels.”

“Today, more than one million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other Muslims are interred in re-education camps designed to erase their religious and ethnic identities,” said Pompeo. “The government also is increasing its persecution against Christians, Tibetans and anyone who espouses different views from those or advocates of those of government or advocates change in government.”

The “2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” alleged that Chinese authorities have detained millions of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslims in internment camps in order to erase religious and ethnic identities, Reuters reported.

Pompeo listed countries such as Iran, South Sudan and Nicaragua as some of the worst abusers of human rights. The Iranian government last year killed more than 20 people and illegally arrested thousands for protesting for their rights, he said. “The government banned media outlets from covering the demonstrations. This continues the pattern of cruelty that the regime has inflicted upon the Iranian people for the last four decades,” Pompeo added.

The US expressed disappointment at the failure of Muslim nations to take a stand against China’s treatment of its minority community, AFP reported. “We are, I can say, disappointed about the lack of response from members of the OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation], and the lack of outspoken concern,” said US Ambassador Kelley Currie, who heads the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice.

‘Abuses in Xinjiang the worst since the 1930s’

Referring to abuses in China’s Xinjiang, head of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Michael Kozak said the situation was the worst since the 1930s.

“Rounding up, in some estimations... in the millions of people, putting them into camps, and torturing them, abusing them, and trying to basically erase their culture and their religion and so on from their DNA,” he said. “It’s just remarkably awful. It is one of the most serious human rights violations in the world today.”

While China has refuted claims of the internment camps, Kozak said China was now claiming they were voluntary labour training camps. “That does not match the facts that we and others are seeing, but at least I think we’re starting to make them realise that there’s a lot of international scrutiny on this and none of it is good from their standpoint,” he added.