Imran Khan’s comic reply on China’s Uyghur persecution exposes double speak

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan refusal to condemn China’s alleged human rights abuses against the Muslim-majority Uyghur minority in Xinjiang has exposed his image as the world’s leading anti-Islamophobia crusader.

In an interview with “Axios on HBO” on Sunday, when he was asked about his outspokeness about Islamophobia in Europe and the US but total silence on the genocide of Muslims in Western China,” he replied, “This is not the case, according to them (Chinese authorities)”.

The cricketer-turned-politician has himself exposed the parochiality of his much-hyped anti-Islamophobia campaign. Khan, who just two years ago feigned ignorance on the ongoing religious persecution of Uyghur Muslims in China stating he “didn’t know much about it,” is today fully conversant with this issue.

“Whatever issues we have with the Chinese, we speak to them behind closed doors,” Khan said, appearing to imply that his country had taken up the issue with Beijing but doesn’t dare to take issue publically with all-weather friend China.

He also admitted that China had been pouring cash into Pakistan, which is too critical of an alliance to challenge. “China has been one of the greatest friends to us in our most difficult times. When we were really struggling, when our economy was struggling, China came to our rescue,” he continued, noting that as a result of such financial assistance, “we respect the way they are.”

Asked if it made him feel sick that he had to look the other way on China’s human rights atrocities for the continued financial support, Khan appeared nonchalant given the many acts of violence. “I look around the world, what’s happening in Palestine, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan.

Am I going to start talking about everything? I concentrate on what is happening on my border,” the Prime Minister said, not recognizing that the concentration camps in question were fairly close to his borders on the northwest side.

Xinjiang is a province in Communist China where an estimated two million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been detained since 2016.

They are believed to have been placed in detention centres across Xinjiang, according to the US State Department. Many former detainees allege they were subjected to attempted indoctrination, physical abuse and even sterilisation.

Chinese Communist Party officials, however, have long suspected Uyghurs of harbouring separatist tendencies because they have their own culture, language and religion. The US government and several Western countries have labelled China’s actions in Xinjiang as genocide.

But Khan said Beijing had denied reports of widespread abuses of Uyghur Muslims in private conversations with Islamabad. “We respect the way they are … How come this is such a big issue in the Western world? Why are the people of Kashmir ignored? It is much more relevant,” he said.

While China may have the unconditional support of Islamabad, but credible evidence is abundant to the contrary. Khan’s acceptance of “we speak behind closed doors” and last year’s statement in which he said, “China has been a great friend, we talk about things privately, not publicly, as these are sensitive issues” – is nothing but an admission of the ground reality of Uyghurs’ persecution in Xinjiang. Khan is aware of the situation but can’t afford to annoy China.

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