- Mon, 01/30/2017 - 16:51
Mon Jan 30, 2017 | 6:07am EST
China appeared to offer mild criticism on Monday of U.S. President Donald Trump's banning of entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries, saying immigration policy was a sovereign right but "reasonable concerns" must be considered.
Trump signed a directive on the banning on Friday. U.S. Democrats and a growing number of Republicans assailed the move and foreign leaders condemned it amid court challenges and tumult at U.S. airports.
Trump says his directive is "not about religion" but keeping America safe. Trump has presented the policy as a way to protect the country from the threat of Islamist militants.
China's Foreign Ministry, in a statement sent to Reuters, said it had noted the reports of the U.S. administration's decision.
"China believes that adjusting immigration and entry and exit policy is an act within each country's sovereignty," the ministry said.
"At the same time, relevant moves must also consider the reasonable concerns of relevant countries," it added in a brief statement.
It did not elaborate.
China is in the middle of a week-long Lunar New Year holiday and government departments do not return to work until Friday.
China has been trying to pay a greater diplomatic role in the Middle East, and has particularly close ties with Iran and Sudan, two of the seven countries on Trump's list.
China is home to a Muslim population of about 20 million people, including ethnic Uighur people in the far western region of Xinjiang, where the government says it is facing its own problem with Islamist militants.
Rights groups and exiles says China's repressive policies in Xinjiang, including controls on Islam, are the root cause of the unrest, which has killed hundreds in the past few years.
China denies any repression and says it guarantees freedom of religion.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)