Beijing engages with Pakistan's Uighurs in 'charm offensive'

Contributing writer
October 31, 2018 12:09 JST

QUETTA, Pakistan -- China is quietly launching a "charm offensive" to win over the Muslim Uighurs in Pakistan, where Beijing has invested billions of dollars through its Belt and Road Initiative.

In an unprecedented development, the Chinese embassy in Islamabad recently invited a group of Uighurs in the South Asian country to meet with officials. About a dozen Uighurs attended the meeting with Chinese diplomats, based on an image in a news release issued by the embassy.

Beijing has been accused by Western media of alleged human rights violations against Uighurs in China's Xinjiang autonomous region. The reports alleged that over a million Uighurs were detained in "re-education camps," which Chinese state media claimed were vocational training facilities.

At the meeting, the diplomats explained that the activities undertaken by Chinese authorities in Xinjiang were part of an "anti-terrorism stability" effort and "vocational skills education and training."

The press statement quoted Shen Zicheng, a counsellor at the Chinese embassy, as saying: "Xinjiang's anti-terrorism struggle has achieved significant results, and the current Xinjiang region is stable." 

Uighur leaders from the Rawalpindi and Gilgit-Baltistan regions who attended the meeting appreciated the economic and social development in Xinjiang and the fruit of the anti-terrorism policies, the statement said.

The meeting is seen as Beijing's latest effort to quell the rise of anti-China sentiments abroad. Experts say Beijing targeted the Uighurs in Pakistan because of the country's importance to its BRI project.