Describing the deteriorating human rights situation in parts of China as appalling wherein over a million religious minorities have reportedly been detained, the United States said it is considering taking targeted measures against those responsible for this.
"We are committed to promoting accountability for those who are committing these violations and considering targeted measures as well," State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino told reporters at his biweekly news conference.
Dismissing the Chinese criticism of the US making statements on internal affairs of China, Palladino asserted that the United States will continue to raise the issue.
"This is something that we're going to continue to speak out about. This really is an appalling situation that's ongoing and we're alarmed, frankly, that there's over a million people at least being detained: Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, other members of Muslim-minority groups in these internment camps," he said.
According to multiple media accounts, China is holding more than a million Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking ethnic minority, and other Muslims in "re-education camps" in Xinjiang. It has turned the far-western region bordering Central Asia into one the most policed areas of the country.
"We will continue to call on China to end these policies and to free these people that have been arbitrarily detained," Palladino said.
A day earlier US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China is in a "league of its own" when it comes to human rights violations.
In its annual report, the State Department alleged that in 2018, the Chinese government significantly intensified its campaign of mass detention of members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
"In just 2018, China intensified its campaign of detaining Muslim minority groups at record levels," Pompeo said as he released the annual Congressional-mandated country reports on human rights on Wednesday.
China, however, says the camps are vocational training centres. It described the charges as baseless.
"China's human rights cause has made great progress," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters in Beijing.
"We hope the US will remove the coloured lenses and discard the Cold War mentality ... and view China's human rights progress in an objective and just way and stop interfering in China's internal affairs with human rights as a pretext," he added.
Palladino said the US would continue to speak about human rights violations in China. "Secretary Pompeo was certainly clear yesterday, and he was certainly clear on this issue when his Chinese counterpart visited Washington for the Diplomatic and Security Dialogue that we held a few months ago. We will echo the Government of Turkey's recent statement on this matter in which they called this a great shame for humanity. That's well said," he said.