Pakistan’s Khan backs China on Uighurs, praises one-party system

Imran Khan repeats his country’s support for the Chinese government regarding its policies in Muslim-majority Xinjiang province.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeated his country’s support for the Chinese government regarding its policies in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang province, while also praising the country’s one-party system as offering a better model for societies compared with electoral democracy.

Khan was speaking to members of the Chinese news media who were visiting Islamabad as part of the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Thursday.

Rights groups accuse China of systematic and widespread “mass internment and torture amounting to crimes against humanity” against the Muslim population in its southwestern Xinjiang province.

In a report last month, Amnesty International termed the situation in Xinjiang “a dystopian hellscape”, citing dozens of witness accounts that detailed allegations of brainwashing, torture and an erasure of cultural identity.

But Khan, who has regularly called for international action against Islamophobia, particularly in European countries, said he was satisfied with the Chinese government’s denials of any rights abuses.

“Our interaction with Chinese officials, that version of what is happening in Xinjiang is completely different to the version of what we hear from the Western media and the Western governments,” he said on Thursday.

“Because we have our very strong relationship with China, and because we have a relationship based on trust, so we actually accept the Chinese version. What they say about their programmes in Xinjiang, we accept it.”

Pakistan shares a longstanding strategic relationship with its northeastern neighbour China, which has invested more than $60bn in the country through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

Khan also lauded the one-party system of governance in China, where the state is exclusively controlled by the Communist Party of China and there are no direct elections for major positions or the country’s parliament.

“The CPC is a unique model. Up until now, we were told that the best way for societies to improve themselves is the Western system of democracy,” said Khan.

“What the CPC has done is that it has brought this alternative model. And they have actually beaten all Western democracies in the way they have brought up merit in their society.”

Khan, who was elected to power in a general election in 2018, said electoral democracy “straight-jackets you” when it comes to reforms, and lauded the “flexibility” of the Chinese model.

“Up until now, the feeling was that electoral democracy is the best way where you get leadership based on merit, and then hold that leadership accountable. But what the CPC has done is that without that electoral democracy it has actually achieved that much better,” he said.