U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sept. 21 joined voices from Pakistan and around the world in denouncing Chinese repression against a Muslim minority, as China continues to put pressure on almost all religions within its borders.

Uyghurs are a Turkic-speaking ethnic minority that mainly inhabit the vast Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The advocacy group Uyghur Human Rights Project estimates that approximately ten percent of the Uyghur population, or some 1 million individuals, are being extrajudicially detained in a system of internment camps.

While also mentioning his concern for Christians in China amid a recent intensifying of governmental repression, Pompeo decried the treatment of the Uyghurs by Chinese authorities.

“Their religious beliefs are decimated,” Pompeo said.

An Aug. 13 report from the United Nations detailed the violent crackdowns on members of the minority in Xinjiang, which China claims is not based upon religion but rather in response to terrorism threats in general. According to the BBC, violence in the region escalated in the 1990s and again in 2008.

“In the name of combating 'religious extremism' and maintaining 'social stability'...China had turned the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region into something that resembled a massive internment camp shrouded in secrecy, a 'no rights zone',” the report states.

“[M]embers of the Xinjiang Uyghur minority, along with others who were identified as Muslim, were being treated as enemies of the State based on nothing more than their ethno-religious identity.”

Authorities in Pakistan, China’s closest ally in the Muslim world, also warned against escalating persecution of the Uyghurs.

Noorul Haq Qadri, Pakistan's Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony, advised Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing that Beijing’s crackdowns on Uyghur activity would only fuel extremism rather than mitigate it.

The Chinese ambassador reportedly promised that his government would allow a Pakistani delegation of religious scholars to visit Xinjiang, according to Pakistani media.

The Chinese government, led by President Xi Jinping, has made numerous moves recently to curb religious freedom in the country, including the demolishing of Christian churches and sending Muslims to so-called “reeducation camps” for offenses as minor as wearing beards, veils and other distinctive markers of Islam. In September, the government made it illegal for any religious prayers, catechesis, or preaching to be published online.

The US Commission on International Religion wrote in its 2018 report that last year China “advanced its so-called 'sinicization' of religion, a far-reaching strategy to control, govern, and manipulate all aspects of faith into a socialist mold infused with 'Chinese characteristics.'”

Christians, Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners have all been affected.

The Holy See signed a deal with Beijing Sept. 22 to give the Chinese government some power over episcopal appointments in exchange for bringing the underground Church above ground, ending the split with the state-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.