The United States has declared that the Chinese government’s actions against the Uyghur population amount to genocide and crimes against humanity.
“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 of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet posted shortly after noon on January 19.
“These acts are an affront to the Chinese people and to civilized nations everywhere,” said Pompeo, on his last full day as secretary of state. “The People's Republic of China and the CCP must be held to account.”
The Chinese government admitted in October 2018 that “re-education camps” for members of the Uyghur Muslim population had been established in Xingjiang. The camps were first spotted on satellite imagery in 2017.
The highest estimate sets the total number of inmates in the camps at 3 million, plus approximately half a million minor children in special boarding schools for “re-education” purposes. Survivors have reported indoctrination, forced abortions, beatings, forced labor, and torture in the camps.
In a statement published to the Department of State website, Pompeo further outlined his allegations against the People’s Republic of China.
“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,” said Pompeo.
He specifically cited the “arbitrary imprisonment” of more than a million Uyghurs; the continued use of forced sterilization, torture, and forced labor; and “the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement.”
Pompeo said he believes “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,” he said.
Pompeo, speaking on behalf of the United States, called for the People’s Republic of China to “immediately release all arbitrary detained persons” and to “abolish its system of internment, detention camps, house arrest and forced labor; cease coercive population control measures, including forced sterilizations, 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 secretary of state also requested that “all appropriate multilateral and relevant judicial bodies” to work alongside the United States “to promote accountability for those responsible for these atrocities.” The Department of State will continue to investigate the situation in Xinjiang, he said, and will make this evidence available to other authorities as well.
The sanctions against those who are promoting atrocities in Xinjiang will remain, said Pompeo.
“The United States has worked exhaustively to pull into the light what the Communist Party and General Secretary Xi Jinping wish to keep hidden through obfuscation, propaganda, and coercion,” said Pompeo.
“Beijing’s atrocities in Xinjiang represent an extreme affront to the Uyghurs, the people of China, and civilized people everywhere. We will not remain silent. If the Chinese Communist Party is allowed to commit genocide and crimes against humanity against its own people, imagine what it will be emboldened to do to the free world, in the not-so-distant future,” he said.
The Trump administration in recent months has cracked down on imports from China suspected to be produced with forced labor.
In August, President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign stated that the treatment of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang amounted to genocide.
“The unspeakable oppression that Uighurs and other ethnic minorities have suffered at the hands of China’s authoritarian government is genocide and Joe Biden stands against it in the strongest terms,” said campaign spokesman Andrew Bates at that time.