International Religious Freedom Summit 2021 Hones In On China’s Abuse Of Uyghurs

Advocacy to free Uighurs in China

On Wednesday's International Religious Freedom Summit 2021, U.S. government officials took to the stage to decry China's continued human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslim minorities residing in the country's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

American leaders took aim at Beijing's policies on its alleged genocide on the Muslims in the province, where citizens are subjected to forced labor, conversion, and sterilization.

The first ever International Religious Freedom Summit was held in Washington DC from July 13 to 15 and was attended by several senior U.S. government officials, including Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Washington Times reported.

Co-chair Sam Brownback, ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom and former Kansas Republican governor, said that the goal of the event was to "cultivating a culture of liberty." The bipartisan summit was also co-chaired by Democrat Katrina Lantos Swett, a former chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The International Religious Freedom Summit 2021 featured a number of speakers, including the Dalai Lama who recorded a video greeting, the Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, and Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian on death row who was released following a campaign by international rights advocates.

The event also featured Rabbi David Saperstein, a former U.S. ambassador for International Religious Freedom, as well as an Uyghur woman named Tursunay Ziyawudun who fled to the U.S. following years of persecution at the hands of Chinese authorities.

"The Uyghur community faces an existential threat from Beijing, which is a challenge to our own conscience," Speaker Pelosi said in a prerecorded statement, as reported by Radio Free Asia.

"We have and we will continue to speak out because as I always say, if we do not speak out about human rights violations in China, indeed anywhere because of commercial interest, then we lose our moral authorities to speak out on human rights violations anywhere," Pelosi continued.

According to reports, China has detained more than 1.8 million Uyghurs among their population of 12 million in the XUAR. These Uyghur Muslims are held in Chinese concentration camps where they are subjected to forced labor and women are sterilized, raped and abused by police guards.

Beijing continues to deny all allegations, saying that the concentration camps do not appear so, but are "re-education centers" built to address religious extremism in the Muslim community. Uyghurs who are not captured by Chinese authorities are carefully surveilled using facial recognition cameras, mobile phone scans, DNA collection, and other intrusive police methods.

"[The] ongoing shocking, indeed horrifying, treatment of the Uyghur population being rounded up in Xinjiang province plays into these truly Orwellian concentration camps where people are surveilled at all times, placed in slave labor, forced to conduct abortions and sterilizations," former State Secretary Pompeo said at the International Religious Freedom Summit.

"It should strike at the heart of every human being and every American who cares or claims to care about freedom in the world," Pompeo said.

The Biden administration endorsed the former State Secretary's designation and continues its campaign to condemn China's Uyghur abuse. U.S. senators this week passed new legislation to ban products from the XUAR on the assumption that all are produced from forced labor unless proven otherwise. It is expected to pass the House of Representatives soon.