HRW urges New Zealand's Ardern to discuss Muslims in China

BEIJING (AP) — A rights group urged New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to raise concerns about reported Chinese government abuses of Muslims during her visit to Beijing next week.

Ardern's visit on Monday and Tuesday comes two weeks after a gunman killed 50 worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand.

Human Rights Watch said Friday that Ardern "spoke forcefully in defense of Muslims' rights" after the attacks and should do so again in Beijing.

The prime minister is reducing the length and scope of her China visit in response to the mosque attacks.

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese Muslims have been detained without charge in internment camps, where relatives and ex-inmates say they have been subjected to physical abuse and forced to renounce Islam.

Human Rights Watch said Ardern should publicly call on Chinese leaders to close the camps, end the abuses, and permit independent, international observers' access to the Xinjiang region that is home to China's largest mainly Muslim minority group, the Uighurs. Other members of Muslim groups, including Kazakhs and the Hui have also faced internment and other forms of repression.

China has so far rejected calls for independent observers and after first denying the camps existence, now says they are voluntary vocational training centers that provide job skills to ward off religious extremism.

Although Muslim countries have remained largely silent over the camps and other abuses against Chinese Muslims, some European nations and the U.S. have increasingly vocal in their criticism.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with former inmates and family members, tweeting that he called on China to "end these counterproductive policies and release all arbitrarily detained.

"The world cannot afford China's shameful hypocrisy toward Muslims. On one hand, China abuses more than a million Muslims at home, but on the other it protects violent Islamic terrorist groups from sanctions at the U.N.," Pompeo wrote, in a reference to China's repeated refusal to designate Masood Azhar, the head of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, as a global terrorist.

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