The Trump administration has evidence that China has committed “genocide and crimes against humanity” by repressing Uyghur Muslims in its Xinjiang region, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on 19 January, in an awkward blow to Beijing a day before President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office.
Pompeo said he made the determination, certain to further strain already frayed ties between the world’s top economies, “after careful examination of the available facts,” accusing the Communist Party of China of crimes against humanity targeting the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities since at least March 2017.
“I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state,” Pompeo said in a statement.
China has been widely condemned for its glorified concentration camps in Xinjiang, which it describes as “vocational training centres” to stamp out extremism. It denies accusations of abuse.
The rare American determination follows intensive internal debate after the US Congress passed legislation on 27 December requiring the US administration to determine within 90 days whether China had committed crimes against humanity or genocide.
Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a confirmation hearing on 19 January he agreed with the genocide declaration.
He said the United States should not be importing any products made with forced labour 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.”
China’s embassy in Washington said in a statement: “The so-called ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is simply a lie. It is a farce used to discredit China.” It rejected the US declaration as a “gross interference in China’s internal affairs.”
US-China ties plummeted to their lowest level in decades during the past four years of Republican President Donald Trump administration. The genocide declaration will ensure a particularly difficult start to the Biden administration’s relationship with Beijing, as the US foreign policy is known to be consistent, marking no abrupt changes in the country’s approach to other nations when the American regime changes.