The Trump administration determined that China has committed genocide against Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang, months after imposing sanctions on Chinese officials over the matter.
As early as 2017, Xinjiang, an autonomous region in northwestern China, has made headlines for erecting hundreds of “re-education centers” — alleged concentration camps that subject “students” to 24/7 surveillance, ideological education and behavioral correction.
Crimes Against Humanity
In a statement on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Beijing of “genocide” and “crimes against humanity” for its treatment of more than one million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other minority groups in the region.
“For the past four years, this Administration has exposed the nature of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and called it what it is: a Marxist-Leninist regime that exerts power over the long-suffering Chinese people through brainwashing and brute force,” the official said. “Since at least March 2017, local authorities [in China] dramatically escalated their decades-long campaign of repression against Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.”
Pompeo said that available facts point to China as responsible for crimes such as arbitrary imprisonment, torture, forced labor, and the imposition of “draconian restrictions” on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement. The official also noted that a genocide is ongoing.
“Their morally repugnant, wholesale policies, practices, and abuses are designed systematically to discriminate against and surveil ethnic Uyghurs as a unique demographic and ethnic group, restrict their freedom to travel, emigrate, and attend schools, and deny other basic human rights of assembly, speech, and worship,” Pompeo added.
I have determined that the People’s Republic of China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, targeting Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 19, 2021
Just last week, Trump banned imports of cotton and tomatoes coming from Xinjiang. The move, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), was based on “information that reasonably indicates the use of detainee or prison labor and situations of forced labor.”
An investigation by the agency revealed that laborers in the region suffered from isolation, debt bondage, restriction of movement and withholding of wages. They were also subjected to “intimidation and threats,” as well as “abusive living and working conditions.”
“DHS will not tolerate forced labor of any kind in U.S. supply chains,” said Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees CBP. “We will continue to protect the American people and investigate credible allegations of forced labor, we will prevent goods made by forced labor from entering our country, and we demand the Chinese close their camps and stop their human rights violations.”
Last July, Trump also imposed sanctions and visa restrictions on several Chinese officials — including a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party — over the Xinjiang situation. Those sanctions were levied under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016, which gives the U.S. the power to impose human rights penalties on foreign officials.
China repeatedly denies allegations about its treatment of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang. Officials claim that policies in the region only seek to promote economic growth and social stability.
On Wednesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry retaliated against Pompeo’s claims, calling the U.S. official a “doomsday clown.” Spokesperson Hua Chunying described the allegations as “outright sensational pseudo-propositions” and “a malicious farce.”
“In our view, Pompeo’s so-called designation is a piece of wastepaper. This American politician, who is notorious for lying and deceiving, is turning himself into a doomsday clown and joke of the century with his last madness and lies of the century,” Hua told reporters, according to AP News.
Pompeo’s determination does not require any immediate action, but the new administration is expected to take them into account when formulating its China policy.