Thu, Nov 07, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Minister defends PRC policy on HK, Taiwan, Xinjiang

AP, BEIJING

Chinese Minister of National Defense General Wei Fenghe (魏鳳和) on Tuesday defended his nation’s policy on the controversial issues of Hong Kong and Xinjiang in a telephone conversation with US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

The Chinese minister also raised the issues of Taiwan and the South China Sea in the telephone conversation with his US counterpart, Xinhua news agency reported.

While it is usual for China to reassert its claim to sovereignty over both those areas in talks with the US, the mention of Hong Kong and Xinjiang is more unusual.

Hong Kong has been wracked by five months of anti-government protests that Beijing accuses the US and other foreign forces of encouraging, while China has come under criticism for detaining more than 1 million of Xinjiang’s Uighurs and members of other Muslim ethnic groups in political re-education centers, where they are forced to swear loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party.

The centers are seen by critics as a key part of what they call a campaign of cultural genocide.

China at first denied the existence of the centers, but now says they aim to provide job skills to lift people out of poverty, and combat religious extremism.

No details of Wei’s comments on any of the four topics were given, although he has issued a series of harsh statements renewing China’s determination to back up its territorial claims with force.

At a security conference in Singapore in June, Wei warned that China’s People’s Liberation Army would “resolutely take action” to defend Beijing’s claims over Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Wei did not direct the threat at the US, but loaded his address with criticism of activities by Washington, including support for Taiwan and leading so-called freedom of navigation operations.

Beijing would not “yield a single inch of the country’s sacred land,” Wei said.

Despite Wei’s hardline stance, he told Esper that while China-US relations had reached a “crucial period,” mutually beneficial cooperation was the “only correct choice,” Xinhua reported.

“The two sides should ... continue to advance military-to-military relations to make them a pillar of stability in bilateral relations,” Wei was quoted as saying.

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