- President Joe Biden's nominee to serve as secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing that he concurs with the Trump administration's classification of China's treatment of Uyghurs as a "genocide."
- "That would be my judgment as well... On the Uyghurs, I think we're very much in agreement," Blinken said. The Senate will likely hold a confirmation vote on Blinken's nomination within the next two weeks.
What’s the story?
- The State Dept. on Tuesday declared that China’s government is committing genocide against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region through its use of internment camps, forced sterilization, and other means of repression. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement made two determinations (emphasis original):
“1. After careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that since at least March 2017, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), under the direction and control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has committed crimes against humanity against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other members of ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. These crimes are ongoing and include: the arbitrary imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than one million civilians, forced sterilization, torture of a large number of those arbitrarily detained, forced labor, and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement. The Nuremberg Tribunals at the end of World War II prosecuted perpetrators for crimes against humanity, the same crimes being perpetrated in Xinjiang.
2. In addition, after careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that the PRC, under the direction and control of the CCP, has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state. The governing authorities of the second most economically, militarily, and politically powerful country on earth have made clear that they are engaged in the forced assimilation and eventual erasure of a vulnerable ethnic and religious minority group, even as they simultaneously assert their country as a global leader and attempt to remold the international system in their image.”
- The announcement was made with just one day left in the Trump administration and comes after several years of investigation and debate within the State Dept. It appears unlikely that the incoming Biden administration will look to reverse the policy given that President-elect Joe Biden previously said China’s actions amounted to “genocide.” The Chinese government has denied any wrongdoing in Xinjiang and lobbied foreign governments to avoid criticism of its policies in the region.
- In June 2020, President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 into law after the bill passed the Senate unanimously and cleared the House on a 413-1 vote. It requires federal agencies to produce detailed reports about the persecution in Xinjiang, consider sanctions on officials and entities involved, block exports that could further the persecution, and pressure the People’s Republic of China to stop the repression.
What are ‘genocide’ and ‘crimes against humanity’?
- The United Nations Genocide Convention defines genocide as “acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such” by “killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
- The Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, and the Rwandan genocide are prominent examples of genocides. The U.S. also declared that ISIS was engaged in genocide in Iraq and Syria, and also designated genocides in Kosovo and Darfur in recent decades.
- Crimes against humanity aren’t codified through an international convention in the same way as genocide, although several international courts have prosecuted the crimes. Such crimes are either part of a government policy or are atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government to murder, exterminate, enslave, deport, imprison, torture, rape, or persecute civilians on political, racial, and religious grounds. In recent years the U.S. has condemned crimes against humanity in Burma (Myanmar).
What is China doing to Muslim minorities in Xinjiang?
- Human rights experts say that between 800,000 to 2 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims have been detained indefinitely in reeducation camps since 2017 because the Chinese Communist Party views them as a potential extremist or separatist threat in the Xinjiang region of western China.
- Detainees are interned without due process in the camps, where they are subjected to communist propaganda, forced to renounce Islam, and in some cases are beaten and tortured. Detainees are forced to demonstrate sufficient political loyalty to be released.
- Uyghur detainees are also used as forced labor, which several notable multinational companies have been associated with. In July 2020, U.S. Customs & Border Protection seized a 13-ton shipment of hair weaves & beauty accessories shipped from China that was suspected to have been made from human hair taken from Uyghurs in a concentration camp.
- Outside of the Xinjiang internment camps, there is political and cultural indoctrination occurring in schools and authorities using the compulsory collection of biometric data (like DNA & voice samples), artificial intelligence, big data, and movement restrictions to control the population.
- Uyghur women are subjected to pregnancy checks, and forced abortions and sterilizations have been performed on many. Those who have too many children are sent to detention camps unless they can pay substantial fines.
- The Chinese Communist Party restricts the use of the Uyghur language and has demolished Uyghur graveyards and shrines. There have also been credible reports of extrajudicial mass killings.
- Abroad, the Chinese Communist Party has threatened & harassed Uyghurs & ethnic Muslim minorities who’ve moved overseas, and in some cases have sought to forcibly repatriate them to China. At least five journalists working for Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur service detailed abuses against their family members in Xinjiang because of their work exposing the Chinese Communist Party’s abuses.
- A Human Rights Watch report notes that the “human rights violations in Xinjiang today are of a scope and scale not seen in China since the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution”, and explains the motivation behind it:
“Authorities have sought to justify harsh treatment in the name of maintaining stability and security in Xinjiang, and to “strike at” those deemed terrorists and extremists in a “precise” and “in-depth” manner. Xinjiang officials claim the root of these problems is the “problematic ideas” of Turkic Muslims. These ideas include what authorities describe as extreme religious dogmas, but also any non-Han Chinese sense of identity, be it Islamic, Turkic, Uyghur, or Kazakh. Authorities insist that such beliefs and affinities must be “corrected” or “eradicated.”
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Radio Free Asia / Fair Use)
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