U.S. to China: Free Muslims from Prison Camps to Trade with America

U.S. to China: Free Muslims from Prison Camps to Trade with America

For a profile in courage, consider a very significant move by the Trump administration this week in defense of Muslims. Just days before taking up new trade talks with China, the administration announced a dramatic stand in defense of up to 2 million Chinese Muslims in concentration camps and against companies that are using their technology to spy on the Chinese in their daily lives. Not that I expect the media to give the president and his administration points for defending the religious liberty of people around the world, but when you consider that the NBA couldn't find the character to support one pro-democracy tweet when China threatened loss of income, the move is all the more striking.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced this week that visa restrictions had been placed on Chinese diplomats alleged to have been involved in human rights violations against the Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region. The officials "are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention and abuse of Uighurs, Kazakhs, or other members of Muslim minority groups," he said. But restricting travel wasn't the administration's only move. The U.S. also blacklisted 28 Chinese companies who are believed to be involved in "surveillance and detention of minority groups," meaning that they cannot do business in the U.S. without a special waiver from the Commerce Department.

The two million-plus Muslims "are sent to re-education camps to learn how to be, quote unquote, more Chinese," said Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, who serves on the Finance Committee, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and joined me on Wednesday's Washington Watch.

"They're under heavy control. They're being managed in an area and restricted to travel. This is something we as Americans would never allow and shouldn't ever allow," he said.

Senator Lankford could not recall any previous administration putting human rights so front and center in similar negotiations, adding: "It is entirely appropriate to be able to bring in human rights, and I'm grateful that they haven't just said it's about the dollar, but they've also said it's about the value of each individual life and our economy. And so I don't know what time it has been addressed before, but I'm very grateful it is now."

China's track record in business and in its treatment of people in country is having an unintended impact on its economy.

With China's known practice of stealing intellectual property, companies are leaving China in droves heading to other countries in the Pacific Rim, especially Vietnam, where similar human rights problems can occur.

Lankford agreed, "They're still struggling with the issue of human rights, religious freedom and a particular course, (as) one of five communist countries remaining. But I think as we continue in those discussions with countries like Vietnam, we can help them improve. But we've got to be willing to have those hard conversations."

Because of the courage of the Trump administration, human rights are being advanced as well as a financial agenda.

Lankford observed: "We as Americans have economic goals. But we also have humanity goals where we believe in the basic freedom of individuals to be able to not only live free, but to be able to practice their faith freely. And so it isn't it is not just a good moment. It is the best moment to be able to get their attention and to say bring in the issue of human rights while we're also talking about economic issues."

Let's be praying for the Trump administration as the trade talks begin, especially as they work to highlight human rights of all people of faith and not just the almighty dollar.