On Friday, the Saudi leader known as ‘MBS’ arrived in China to meet with officials there. During his visit, he defended China’s use of re-education camps for some one million of its country’s Uighur Muslim population. “China has the right to carry out anti-terrorism and de-extremization work for its national security,” the crown prince was quoted as saying on Chinese television. (No wonder Donald Trump likes this guy)
Newsweek Even as he faces criticism from some Western countries over the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia’s young crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is forming new alliances. He was greeted by China’s Vice Premier Han Zheng and signed key agreements with Beijing related to energy production and the chemical industry.
— Abdugheni Sabit (@AbdugheniSabit) February 21, 2019
China has detained an estimated 1 million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps, where they are undergoing re-education programs allegedly intended to combat extremism. The Uighur are an ethnic Turkic group that practices Islam and lives in Western China and parts of Central Asia.
Beijing has accused the Uighur in its Western Xinjiang region of supporting terrorism and implemented a surveillance regime. Millions of Muslims are also allegedly being forced to study communist doctrine in the camps.
“The Chinese government has long carried out repressive policies against the Turkic Muslim peoples in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in northwest China. These efforts have been dramatically scaled up since late 2016, when Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo relocated from the Tibet Autonomous Region to assume leadership of Xinjiang,” read a report from the organization Human Rights Watch.
Uighur groups called on Mohammed bin Salman to use his official visit to pressure China on the issue of the concentration camps, as Saudi Arabia has traditionally been a defender of the rights of Muslims worldwide.
But under the leadership of the young crown prince, the country’s leadership has become more pragmatic in its pursuit of foreign policy interests. For example, Saudi Arabia has reportedly started developing closer ties with Israel despite persistent complaints from human rights groups about the country’s treatment of Palestinians. The tentative alliance is meant to sideline Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia’s mutual enemy.
Mohammed bin Salman will also meet China’s President Xi Jingping during his visit to the country. China and Saudi Arabia have close economic ties, having done an estimated $63 billion worth of trade in 2018.