The mass detention and deployment of high-tech surveillance technologies to systematically repress Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minority groups in China's Xinjiang province is the most severe human rights crisis in the Communist nation since the Cultural Revolution, the Trump administration has told US lawmakers.
An estimated 1.1 million people have been placed in internment camps, including re-education camps where, according to former detainees and other witnesses, inmates are subjected to intense political indoctrination and abuse.
Testifying before a Congressional committee, Laura Stone, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, alleged that China is doubling down on repressive domestic controls in stark contrast to the universal values that the US and its partners have championed for many decades.
"The most severe human rights crisis in China - perhaps since the Cultural Revolution - is the mass detention and deployment of high-tech surveillance technologies to systematically repress Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang," Stone told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.
"In recent years, we have witnessed a regression in terms of China's respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including religious freedom; the rule of law; and civil society," she said.
"China's mass detentions of members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, while perhaps the most egregious example, is only one of many recent actions taken by the Chinese leadership that run counter not only to China's international human rights commitments, but also to Chinese law," she said.
According to Stone, there have been continued reports that Tibetan Buddhists have been subjected to forced disappearance, physical abuse, arbitrary detention, and arrest.
The Chinese government asserts authority over the selection, approval, and veneration of reincarnations of Tibetan Buddhist lamas and supervises their religious education.
"We remain concerned about the lack of meaningful autonomy for Tibetans, and we regularly urge China to cease restrictions on the rights of Tibetans, as well as their unique religious, linguistic, and cultural traditions and practices," she said.
Recently, oppressive activities aimed at residents of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region reportedly have severely intensified, as documented by the dogged reporting of diplomats, reporters, academics, and Muslim communities abroad, she alleged.
The concluding observations on China by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination further shined a spotlight on the worsening human rights crisis there, she said.
Under the guise of fighting "terrorism" and so-called "religious extremism" China's leadership, she alleged, is intensifying long-standing repressive policies targeting individuals who practice non-violent cultural and religious practices in Xinjiang, including by reportedly torturing and abusing prisoners held for their beliefs and forcing individuals to renounce their religion and pledge allegiance to the Communist Party.
"We are particularly alarmed by reports that since April 2017, extremely large numbers of Uighurs and other members of Muslim minority groups have been detained in camps," the US official said.
Detainees are reportedly trained to diminish their ethnic identities, religious beliefs, and nonviolent cultural and religious practices. There are reports of abuse, including torture, and deaths in these camps. China's claims that these camps are all "humane job- training centers" are preposterous, she said.
"These brutal tactics risk creating the very radicalisation to violence that China seeks to avoid. We consistently urge China to reverse its counterproductive policies that conflate terrorism with the peaceful expression of religious beliefs or political views," Stone said.