African Leaders Ignore China’s Religious Freedom Violations
04/20/2021 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Ambassadors from across Africa spoke at an event in Beijing last month supporting China’s persecution of religious minorities. The event centered around whitewashing China’s largest-scale persecution campaign—in western Xinjiang—though China has long attempted to quash religious freedom throughout the country. Representatives from Burkina Faso, the Republic of Congo, and Sudan spoke.
The event, titled Xinjiang in the Eyes of African Ambassadors to China, was the latest in a well-established pattern of China exploiting its economic influence in developing countries for political points on the international stage. China has also faced international condemnation for its oppressive targeting of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. In January, the United States declared China’s campaign against the Uyghurs a genocide.
The African ambassadors repeated the official Chinese government line at the event, saying that government operations in Xinjiang are designed to raise the standard of living in the area and that Western condemnation of the genocide is political rather than factual. “Some Western forces hyping up the so-called Xinjiang-related issues are actually launching unprovoked attacks on China to serve their own ulterior motives,” said Daniel Owassa, the ambassador from Congo. Another ambassador claimed that “the people of Xinjiang enjoy a safe living environment and complete freedom.”
China has long been criticized for its exploitive development tactics in Africa. The so-called Belt and Road Initiative, through which China is attempting to exert its influence across the world, is a centerpiece of the Chinese Communist Party platform and involves both infrastructure projects and the strategic use of loans to gain an edge in international relations.
Earlier this year, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari wrote in an open letter of his support for the “one-China policy,” a thinly veiled show of support for China’s aggression towards Taiwan and severe attacks on human rights in Hong Kong. Buhari also celebrated what he called “the all-round, wide-ranging, and high-quality bilateral cooperation between Nigeria and China.” China spends billions of dollars in Nigeria and owns over 80% of Nigeria’s bilateral debt.
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