‘How come this is such a big issue in the Western world?’: Imran Khan when questioned about Uyghur genocide in China

Jonathan Swan (left), Imran Khan (right), images via CBS and Axios

In an interview with Jonathan Swan, the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was seen making excuses when quizzed about his silence on the genocide committed against Uyghur Muslims in neighbouring China. The interview was aired on Sunday (June 21) by Axios on HBO.

“Just across your border in Western China, the Chinese government has imprisoned more than 1 million Uyghur Muslims in reeducation camps. The Chinese government has tortured Muslims, forcibly sterilised them, and they have destroyed mosques in Xinjiang and also punished Muslims for fasting, praying, even giving Muslim names to their children. Prime Minister, why are you outspoken about Islamophobia in Europe and the US but totally silent about the genocide of Muslims in Western China,” Jonathan Swan asked.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seemed taken aback by the question. In a desperate bid to defend its all-weather friend, Imran Khan alleged, “What… our conversations have been with the Chinese, this is not the case, according to them.” On being told that the evidence was overwhelming, Khan said, “Whatever issues we have with the Chinese, we speak behind closed doors. China has been one of the greatest friends to us in our most difficult times.”

“When we were really struggling, our economy was struggling, China came to our rescue. So, we respect the way they are…And whatever issues we have, we speak behind closed doors. How come this is such a big issue in the Western world?” the Pakistani Prime Minister asked. He then shrewdly tried to deviate the issue from Uyghur Muslims to Kashmiri Muslims and claimed that it was hypocritical that ‘Kashmir’ is not an issue for the world.

Swan pointed out, “They have been a huge partner to you, China. But on some level, doesn’t it make you feel sick to have to be quiet because of all the money they have been putting into Pakistan.” A rattled Imran Khan said, “Am I going to start talking about everything? I am concentrating on what is happening on my border and in my country?”

On being pointed out Xinjiang province is, in fact, near the border with Pakistan, Khan tried to again deviate the conversation to Kashmir. “You are in no way concerned about the Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang?”, the interviewer highlighted. The Pakistani Prime Minister fell short of words and claimed that all such conversations will be taken up with the Chinese authorities behind closed doors.

‘We have economic ties with China, they are good neighbours’: Imran Khan

In an exclusive interview to Canada’s CBC News on June 12, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan dodged the question pertaining to China’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims by saying it is a ‘good neighbour.’ Khan, when specifically asked about the genocide of Uyghur Muslims, said, “We have economic ties with China, China is our neighbor. They’ve been very good to us in our most difficult times.” He was talking to CBC’s Rosemary Barton in a recent interview. When asked whether or not the persecution of Muslims in China is of concern, Khan informed, “If we have concerns we talk about them behind closed doors.”

Uyghur detention camps run by China

The Xinjiang autonomous region in China is facing the worst kind of cultural and ethnic genocide. There is a long history of dissonance between the indigenous ethnic Uyghur and Chinese authorities. The Chinese government refuses to categorize Uyghurs as an indigenous population and describe Uyghurs as a regional minority.

China is facing criticism and worldwide condemnation over its unkind and harsh treatment of the Uyghur Muslims. A Uyghur-Kazakh citizen, Gulbahar Jelilova reported that she was ruthlessly beaten and raped while in custody. Stew Chao, a journalist working with Aljazeera had reported that Abduveli Ayup, a prominent Uighur writer, activist and Uyghur language defender was put in a detention centre and later brutally tortured.

There is also ample evidence that suggests China is systematically targeting Uyghur Muslims through a state-planned birth control process. Zumrat Dawut and Kalbinur Sidik who survived from Chinese detention camps narrated that Uyghur women who conceive more than three children are forcefully sterilized. Women survivors from these camps have narrated that they were beaten, raped, and given mystery injections.

OpIndia Staff: Staff reporter at OpIndia