U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighted abuses in Iran, South Sudan, Nicaragua and China included in an annual State Department human rights report on Wednesday, saying Beijing was “in a league of its own” when it comes to violations.
Pompeo said the Iranian government had killed more than 20 people and arrested thousands without due process for protesting for their rights, “continuing a pattern of cruelty the regime has inflicted on the Iranian people for the last four decades.”
He said in South Sudan, military forces inflicted sexual violence against civilians based on their political allegiances and ethnicity, while peaceful protesters in Nicaragua had been fired on by snipers and government critics had “faced a policy of exile, jail or death.”
“Then there’s China, which is in league of its own when it comes to human rights violations,” Pompeo told reporters.
The State Department report said the Chinese government had in the past year significantly intensified its campaign of mass detention of members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region.
It said authorities there were reported to have arbitrarily detained 800,000 to possibly more than 2 million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other Muslims in internment camps designed to erase religious and ethnic identities.
The report said government officials had claimed the camps were needed to combat terrorism, separatism, and extremism but international media, human rights organizations, and former detainees reported that security officials in the camps abused, tortured, and killed some detainees.
The U.S. report also changed its usual description of the Golan Heights from “Israeli-occupied” to “Israeli-controlled.”
A separate section on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, areas that Israel captured along with the Golan Heights in a 1967 Middle East war, also did not refer to those territories as being “occupied” or under “occupation.”
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao