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Why won’t the Islamic Republics criticise China?

Imran Khan

October 7, 2019 - 7:30am

The Middle East Eye is reporting the deepening of diplomatic relations between China and Iran. 

With the United States waging a trade and economic war against both countries, high-ranking diplomatic, military and trade officials from Beijing and Tehran have met repeatedly in recent months.
- Middle East Eye

From China’s perspective, Iran is located at a key intersection between the Caspian Sea to the north and the Arab states to the south, offing a gateway to Europe and Turkey to the west. Iran thus forms of crucial part of the Chinese 25 year plan known as the Belt and Road initiative. This plan for what is being called a new Silk road is already understood to be one of the largest infrastructure projects in human history, and a means of expanding China’s global influence. 

What is surprising is that a country that styles itself as the Islamic Republic of Iran can be on such increasingly friendly terms with a country that is ethnically cleansing its own Muslim population, with reports continuing to emerge of China holding up to a million Muslims in re-education camps and stories of the use of forced abortions and sexual violence

Iran is not the only Islamic Republic silenced by China’s economic muscle.

The same is happening in Pakistan, with Prime Minister Imran Khan set to arrive in China today for a two day visit, intended to strengthen relations between the two countries – but don’t expect him to make too much fuss about the treatment of his co-religionists suffering in Chinese camps. “I don’t know much about this situation” Khan recently protested, unconvincingly, “But I can tell you one thing, the Chinese have been a breath of fresh air for us.” 

Not good enough, Mr Khan. He manages to have strong views on the suffering of Muslims elsewhere in the world. At a fiery speech to the UN last week, Khan attacked Islamophobia in the West and spoke about the issues of headscarves. Fair enough. He also has strong views on the plight of the Palestinians. But no mention of what is happening on his doorstep.

As the Wall Street Journal puts it “Mr. Khan seeks to project himself as a global defender of Islam, but he won’t utter a peep about one of the most egregious persecutions of Muslims: China’s repression of Xinjiang’s Uighurs and its project to Sinicize Islam.”

Giles Fraser is a journalist, broadcaster and Vicar of St Anne’s, Kew.


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