US Is First To Designate China's Treatment Of Uighurs As 'Genocide'

Clay Curtis
January 20, 2021

"I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state", he said in a statement.

More than one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim people in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang have been incarcerated in camps in a bid to root out Islamic customs and forcibly integrate minorities.

Since past year, the Trump administration has steadily ramped up pressure on Beijing, imposing sanctions on officials and companies for activities and Taiwan, Tibet, and the South China Sea.

On his last day in the job, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said "after careful examination of the available facts", the USA had reached the conclusion genocide had been committed since at least March 2017.

In a study a year ago, German researcher Adrian Zenz found that China has forcibly sterilised large numbers of Uighur women and pressured them to abort pregnancies that exceed birth quotas.

He said the United States should not be importing any products made with forced labor from Xinjiang, adding: "We need to make sure that we're also not exporting technologies and tools that could be used to further their repression".

The determination from the State Department is the strongest denunciation made by any country regarding China's actions and the latest in a series of blows the Trump administration has dealt against China of late.

China has denied all the charges, but Uighur forced labor has been linked by reporting from The Associated Press to various products imported to the USA, including clothing and electronic goods such as cameras and computer monitors.

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The US decision does not automatically trigger any penalties, but means countries will have to think hard about allowing companies to do business with Xinjiang, a leading global supplier of cotton.

On Saturday, Mr Pompeo angered China by lifting restrictions on USA diplomatic contacts with Taiwanese officials. It's unlikely that new President Joe Biden will walk it back, given that Biden's team had itself referred to the atrocities in Xinjiang as "genocide" and urged the Trump administration to make a such a declaration.

The United States called upon the PRC immediately to "release all arbitrarily detained persons and abolish its system of internment, detention camps, house arrest and forced labour; cease coercive population control measures, including forced sterilisations, forced abortion, forced birth control, and the removal of children from their families; end all torture and abuse in places of detention; end the persecution of Uyghurs and other members of religious and ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China, and afford Uyghurs and other persecuted minorities the freedom to travel and emigrate".

The Chinese government has denied any human rights abuses, saying instead that its mass campaign targeting Muslims in Xinjiang province is about economic development and counter terrorism, even as it has severely restricted access to the western province by journalists, human rights groups, or United Nations observers. It rejected the U.S. declaration as a "gross interference in China's internal affairs".

Former Secretary of State John Kerry applied the term to the Islamic State's repression and massacres of Yazidis and other ethnic and religious minorities in Syria and Iraq in 2016, but he couched it by saying it was a legal determination only that did not mandate action by the U.S. government. "Moving forward, this designation should inform the entirety of USA foreign policy and we hope to hear more from the incoming Biden administration on how it plans to follow through on this historic announcement".

China has been widely condemned for its Xinjiang complexes, which it describes as "vocational training centres" to stamp out extremism and give people new skills and which others have called concentration camps.

"Why would we want to use our newfound freedom to trade with states that commit and profit from genocide?"

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