Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continued his war of words with Beijing this week, accusing the Communist Party of genocide against Uighur Muslims while Chinese officials again denied all allegations of abuse in Xinjiang.
Speaking on Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade Show on Tuesday, Pompeo also repeated the disputed theory that the COVID-19 outbreak began in a laboratory in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
“I think about it a lot,” the former secretary said when asked about the fact that the world was still no closer to learning the true origins of the pandemic.
“There is increasing evidence that this did in fact come from the laboratory, although we don’t know that for sure,” Pompeo said while calling the disease the “Wuhan Virus.”
Former President Donald Trump‘s top diplomat added: “But we know for sure that the Chinese Communist Party disappeared journalists; we know they hid doctors that had information; we know they didn’t tell the World Health Organization the truth, and they corrupted it.”
Pompeo, who served in the State Department from April 2018 until the end of Trump’s term, said the U.S. needed to hold the Chinese government accountable for the pandemic, which has so far claimed more than 2.2 million lives worldwide.
On Monday, Community Party officials from Xinjiang gathered in Beijing for a third press conference to address allegations of abuse in the northwestern region.
China has spent several years systematically detaining more than a million Uighur Muslims and other Turkic minorities in re-education camps in Xinjiang, according to international media reports, rights groups and leaked documents.
Regional authorities have been accused of forced labor practices as well as sterilization, leading to a declaration of genocide by the previous U.S. administration. Newly appointed Secretary of State Antony Blinken has sounded agreement with the description, with the Biden administration expected to uphold the decision.
Xu Guixiang, a spokesperson for the Communist Party in Xinjiang, honed in on Secretary Pompeo during this week’s hours-long press conference.
He repeated several familiar party lines, including the description of human rights violations as “the lie of the century,” concocted by Pompeo in order to “obstruct” President Joe Biden and make fixing U.S.-China relations more difficult.
Xu called Pompeo “hysterical” and compared to him a “rat that everyone wants to kill.”
“The American people hate him, and the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang also hate him,” Xu said.
Chinese officials say their policies in Xinjiang are a response to decades of extremist activity, which has been successfully addressed thanks to “deradicalization” efforts in the region.
However, they deny charges of forced labor, sterilization and political indoctrination, which reportedly comes in the form of mandatory Mandarin lessons and classes about Chinese history.
China has so far rejected calls to allow independent observers into Xinjiang. At the press conference, a Xinjiang official did not answer a question about whether Beijing would allow the United Nations to inspect local labor conditions.
“The horrors taking place in western China are real,” Pompeo told Kilmeade in the radio segment. He said it was the responsibility of the U.S. to “call it out” and “set the standard,” which he hoped others around the world would follow.
Chinese state media outlets previously described Pompeo as the Trump administration’s toughest “China hawk.”
His other warnings about Chinese “dual-use technology” and the Confucius Institute’s influence in American schools and universities landed him and 27 other former Trump officials on Beijing’s sanctions list, which was announced on the day of President Biden’s inauguration.
“That’s fine,” Pompeo said. “We’ll cancel my vacation to Shanghai.”
He hoped the Biden administration would stand up for him and others sanctioned by China, whose “threat” had already gained bipartisan consensus in the U.S., Pompeo added.
In many respects, Secretary Blinken is picking up where Pompeo left off when it comes to U.S. policies on Beijing.
Having described China early on as the greatest threat to American interests, the new State Department head has also stood up for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and the Taiwanese government, which is attempting to ward off near-daily warplane sorties by the People’s Liberation Army.
On COVID-19, Blinken told MSNBC on Monday that China’s failure to be transparent about the origins of the virus continue to be a “profound problem.”
Beijing has yet to single out Blinken for criticism the same way it does Pompeo, but on Tuesday, its foreign ministry urged Washington to invite WHO experts for origin-tracing investigations in the United States, in a subtle nod to controversial Chinese theories about the coronavirus’ roots in America or Europe.