China said on Monday US “lies” about the western region of Xinjiang will not deceive anyone, after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his country would use the UN General Assembly to “call out” China over its treatment of ethnic Uighurs.
UN experts and activists say at least 1 million Uighurs, and members of other largely Muslim minority groups, have been detained in camps in the remote Xinjiang region.
Beijing denies any mistreatment at the camps it says provide vocational training to help stamp out religious extremism and teach new work skills.
Pompeo was not the first US official to make irresponsible remarks about Xinjiang, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news conference in Beijing.
“We are strongly dissatisfied with and resolutely opposed to this US officials' neglecting of the facts, making irresponsible comments about China's Xinjiang policy and seriously interfering in China's internal affairs,” Hua said.
She added “in essence there is no difference” between what China is doing in Xinjiang and what many other countries have done in the name of fighting extremism and terrorism.
“The lies of US politicians can't deceive anyone,” she said.
Asked last week at Kansas State University how Washington had been promoting an end to the oppression of Uighurs, Pompeo said it was insufficient and the US would take up their cause at the UN General Assembly this month.
“We'll do a number of gatherings, where our efforts will be to get other countries to sign up to help us call out this activity,” Pompeo said.
“We want freedom for those folks. We have lots of challenges with China, but this is about their fundamental unalienable rights for those particular individuals,” Pompeo said.
Though the US has ramped up criticism of China's measures in Xinjiang, it has not imposed sanctions while it engages in on-again-off-again talks to resolve a bitter and costly trade war with Beijing.
President Donald Trump's administration has considered sanctions against Chinese officials, including Xinjiang's Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo, a member of the Chinese leadership's powerful Politburo, since last year, but has held off amid Beijing's threats of retaliation.
Some members of the US Congress and other critics have been dismayed by Trump's apparent tendency to place efforts to resolve the trade dispute above human rights concerns.