US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (File photo)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (File photo)

US urges Pak to release those held for blasphemy, asks China to curb religious freedom abuses

ANI | Updated: Jun 22, 2019 12:33 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Jun 22 (ANI): US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday urged Pakistan to release over 40 people from the religious minority community who have been serving jail term or facing execution on blasphemy charges in the country.
Releasing the annual report on the International Religious Freedom of the State Department for the year 2018, on Friday, Pompeo stressed that Pakistan should do more to stop the abuse of blasphemy laws, especially after the release of Asia Bibi, who escaped a death sentence in a case that drew international scrutiny.
"In Pakistan, the Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi, a Catholic, of blasphemy, sparing her the death penalty after she spent nearly a decade in prison. However, more than 40 others remain jailed for life, or face execution on that very same charge," the report said.
It added, "We continue to call for their release, and encourage the government to appoint an envoy to address the various religious freedom concerns."
Bibi, a Catholic, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sent to death row. Despite public protests against her, Bibi was acquitted on appeal last year and in May was able to leave for Canada.
The Criminal Code of Muslim-majority Pakistan, punishes blasphemy, including allegations of insulting Islam, providing penalties ranging from a fine to death.
In addition, the State Department added a special section on what US officials said are the "staggering scope of religious freedom abuses in Xinjiang" to this year's report on China.
"In China, the government's intense persecution of many faiths - Falun Gong practitioners, Christians, and Tibetan Buddhists among them - is the norm," Pompeo said.
"The Chinese Communist Party has exhibited extreme hostility to all religious faiths since its founding. The party demands that it alone be called God," he added.
Pointing to Beijing's detention of some one million Muslims, the State Secretary further criticised the setting up of detention camps in Xinjiang, which the Chinese government describes as "education training centres" helping to stamp out "extremism" and give people new skills.
"I had a chance to meet with some Uighurs here, but unfortunately, most Chinese Uighurs don't get a chance to tell their stories. That's why, in an effort to document the staggering scope of religious freedom abuses in Xinjiang, we've added a special section to this year's China report," he said in the report.
Many international human rights organisations have accused China of cracking down on the Uighurs by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending the minority community to undergo some form of forceful re-education or indoctrination.
In 2018, a UN human rights committee publicly stated that they had seen "credible reports" pertaining to the detention of up to two million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in "political indoctrination camps". However, China has denied all these claims.
Around 10 million Uighur are concentrated in the province. The province has been named as the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR). It spans over 640,000 square miles, representing about one-sixth of the total land area under the control of the People's Republic of China. (ANI)