On March 30 (local time), in the annual human rights report, the Biden administration declared the treatment of Uyghur Muslims by the Chinese government as ‘genocide’. Several reports in the past have shown how China is undertaking mass detention and sterilization of minority groups in the Xinjiang region in the name of ‘re-education’.
It has to be noted that recently during a meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan had a tough time with Chinese diplomats Yang Jiechi and State Councilor Wang Yi. The Chinese diplomats did not pay heed to the Biden’s administration’s willingness to talk about atrocities regardless of the impact on the relations between the two nations. US diplomats were mocked several times by bringing up the issues like Black Lives Matter and were blamed for waging wars in the Middle East for oil.
The report talks about genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang
In the section ‘China (Includes Hong Kong, Macau, and Tibet)’ of the report on Human Rights titled ‘2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices’ unveiled on March 30 by Secretary Antony J. Blinken, there was a mention of atrocities by Chinese Communist Party on minorities in China. It reads, “Genocide and crimes against humanity occurred during the year against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.”
The report further reads, “These crimes were continuing and include: the arbitrary imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than one million civilians; forced sterilization, coerced abortions, and more restrictive application of China’s birth control policies; rape; torture of a large number of those arbitrarily detained; forced labour; and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement.”
The report mentioned several examples, including Abdulghafur Hapiz, an Uyghur man detained in a Xinjiang internment camp since 2017. The Chinese government formally confirmed Hapiz’s death to the United Nations in October. The report said that the Chinese government conducted mass arbitrary detention of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim and ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang.
It also talked about the disappearance of four citizen journalists, Chen Qiushi, Li Zehua, Zhang Zhan, and Fang Bin, who had interviewed health-care professionals and citizens and later publicized their accounts on social media in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown in Wuhan.
Remarks of Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken
While unveiling the report, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that the report shows human rights were going in the ‘wrong direction’ in every region of the world. He further said, “We see it in the genocide being committed against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.” He also called out attacks on and the imprisonment of opposition politicians, anti-corruption activists, and independent journalists in places like Russia, Uganda, Venezuela.
Trump administration had officially declared genocide in Xinjiang in January 2021
During the final days of the tenure, the Trump administration had officially declared genocide in Xinjiang. On January 19, 2021, then-Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo had said, “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.”
He further added that if China is allowed to commit genocide and crimes against humanity against its own people, it is hard to imagine what it can do to the rest of the world. “Imagine what it will be emboldened to do to the free world, in the not-so-distant future,” he said.
Experts welcome US’s report on China
Sophie Richardson, a China expert at Human Rights Watch said, “Using the term ‘genocide’ in the report indicates profound concern in the administration about appalling Chinese government human rights violations against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other Turkic communities.” She further said that the move might put further pressure on the Biden administration to punish China for the alleged actions against the Uyghurs. “The next step is to map out a strategy to back an independent investigation, gather evidence and pursue accountability,” she added.
‘The US is not trying to contain China’, said Blinken
When Blinken was asked if the US’s stand against China and Russia may blowback as it looks like the US is bullying them, Blinken said that the US is not standing against any of those countries. “We’re not trying to, for example, contain China or keep it down. What we are about is standing up for basic principles, basic rights and a rules-based international order,” he added.