January 20, 2021

Genocide in Xinjiang

“The Trump administration has determined that China has committed ‘genocide and crimes against humanity’ in its repression of Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang region, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday.” Reuters

Both sides agree that China’s actions amount to genocide and call for a strong response:

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo writes, “The facts are chilling. Since 2017, the Communist Party has forced more than a million people into internment camps in the Xinjiang region, on the pretext that they need ‘re-education.’ Arbitrary and indefinite detentions lasting months or years at a time are common inside this modern gulag. Survivors tell of torture, sexual abuse including rape, forced labor, the use of electric shock to extract false confessions, and unexplained deaths…

“Of particular repugnance… is the Communist Party’s efforts to stop Uighur women from giving birth via forced abortion and sterilization. Involuntary contraception measures, such as forced insertions of intrauterine devices, are also deployed. ‘They want to destroy us as a people,’ said one such victim. The party has coerced Uighur women to marry non-Uighur men, and separated Uighur children from their families. Birthrates in Xinjiang dropped roughly 24% from 2018 to 2019, compared with a 4.2% decline across China overall. Not every campaign of genocide involves gas chambers or firing squads.”
Michael R. Pompeo, Wall Street Journal

“There’s no legal requirement for the new administration to do anything. But the Biden team will have a moral responsibility and a national security imperative to act. Ignoring a genocide would only lead to expanded repression, which will lead to more instability and more extremism by the victims. The Biden team should impose more sanctions on the perpetrators and initiate more international diplomacy to bring others on board…

“That will surely anger the Chinese Communist Party and further complicate efforts to have smooth relations, but Beijing is always angry and relations are going to be complicated anyway. The Biden administration won’t be able to ignore the ongoing genocide in China — so it might as well do the right thing and try to stop it.”
Josh Rogin, Washington Post

“The Trump administration took several important steps that preceded the issuance of the determination, including the sanctioning of Chen Quanguo and other Chinese Communist Party leaders and entities responsible for carrying out these human rights violations. The administration has also prioritized stopping goods produced with forced labor in Xinjiang from entering the U.S. market. Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection expanded its withhold release orders to all cotton and tomatoes produced in Xinjiang, effectively banning them from U.S. markets…

“Next steps can and should include extending priority-2 refugee status to Uighurs, continuing to combat and upping the ante on efforts to combat forced labor, and identifying additional individuals and entities in the Chinese Communist Party ripe for sanctioning. Today’s atrocity determination should not be seen as an apex of policy achievements, but rather as a call to action for other countries to join the U.S. in responding to a crisis that will go down in history as among the worst.”
Olivia Enos, Daily Signal

“State surveillance in Xinjiang is so pervasive that witnesses are unlikely to tell the truth even when they haven’t been actively intimidated out of speaking. Forced labor is deeply integrated in the local economy, and sometimes mixed with unforced labor. This is convenient for U.S. manufacturers who can boast of audits coming out clean — even as they’re aware that little produced in the region is actually untainted…

“The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which passed the House of Representatives 403 to 6 this fall and whose fate now lies with the Senate, would flip the burden of proof to line up with reality. Firms would have to demonstrate that their imports from Xinjiang are not made with forced labor…

“Companies whose products depend on inputs such as cotton, tomatoes and polysilicon, reportedly including Coca-Cola and Nike, are lobbying the Senate to dilute the measure: Providing proof of the absence of forced labor in a region riddled with it will prove costly in some cases and impossible in most others, they argue. These corporations may simply cease sourcing from Xinjiang altogether. But would that be such a bad thing? At best, the Chinese regime will feel the pain in time and alter its practices, especially if allied countries follow suit. At worst, this country’s companies won’t be complicit in crimes against humanity.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“Human rights activists and media outlets have been urging the international community to describe what’s happening in Xinjiang as ‘genocide’ for some time now…

“Still—it’s hard not to view Pompeo’s declaration with some cynicism. It’s true that the Trump administration has slapped harsh sanctions on Chinese officials and government entities for their involvement in abuses in Xinjiang in recent months and just last week banned imports of tomatoes and cotton from the region. But Trump has also been very open about the fact that he held off on such sanctions while he was negotiating a trade deal with China… And it’s not exactly a profile in courage for Pompeo to level this inflammatory charge at Beijing when he won’t have to deal with the fallout. This feels less like a principled stand than yet another last-minute effort to box Biden in.”
Joshua Keating, Slate

“The fact that so many people seem to be turning a blind eye to what’s happening to the Uighurs, the fact that the Chinese government feels emboldened to crow about declining Uighur birth rates on social media, demonstrates the extent to which Muslims have been dehumanized by the ‘war on terror.’…

The west must hold China to account for what is happening to the Uighurs but it must also hold itself accountable. After 9/11 you could infringe civil liberties with impunity in the name of combating extremism. Michael Bloomberg, for example, has never apologized for an unconstitutional mass surveillance program targeting Muslims after 9/11; indeed, he’s justified it. ‘Of course we’re supposed to do that,’ he said. Treat a huge group of people as if every single one of them is a potential terrorist? That’s what you’re supposed to do? Because that’s exactly what is happening in Xinjiang.”
Arwa Mahdawi, The Guardian

Finally, “The re-education camps are inseparable from a corporate and government-led drive to capitalize on Xinjiang’s resources and people. The region supplies about 20 percent of the nation’s oil and gas and about 20 percent of the world’s tomatoes and cotton…

“For all the talk by US politicians of promoting human rights and decoupling from China, they know that US companies profit from this race-to-the-bottom globalization and that separating the US economy from China’s will not happen anytime soon. From this perspective, the re-education camps implicate more than just the Chinese state… The ultimate agency, of course, lies with Chinese companies and institutions. But it is also impossible to understand why these problems are so endemic without looking at global economic dynamics.”
A. Liu, The Nation

From the Right

“The barbaric conduct that Pompeo has now deemed crimes against humanity and genocide stems from the Communist Party’s desire to annihilate the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims it has sought to supplant with Han Chinese settlers. As senior administration officials put it this afternoon, China’s actions aren’t at first blush the same as the mass killings at Srebrenica and in Rwanda. They are instead ‘a very patient evil,’ designed to erase the Uyghurs over time through methods both tried-and-true and experimental…  [yesterday’s] decision is the world’s most significant step yet toward holding the CCP accountable for its actions.”
Jimmy Quinn, National Review

“Unfortunately, what China is doing to the Uighurs is just one example of how it approaches international trade. If Beijing is willing to turn its own people into slaves, we should have no delusions as to why it treats the rest of us so poorly. The evidence is clear. What China can make with slaves, it makes. What intellectual property China cannot access with legitimate contracts, it steals. What China cannot outcompete, it overwhelms with political pressure. When China is challenged on such actions, it feigns outrage…

“We should not stand for China’s abuses at home and its arrogance abroad — especially when, as with the Uighurs, the consequence is destroyed lives, not simple economics. As it was right to end the domestic cotton slave trade in the 19th century, the U.S. is right to oppose the foreign slave trade in the 21st century. Let our democratic allies take example.”
Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster writes, “[it is a misunderstanding to think] that the United States has eschewed international cooperation to counter CCP aggression in favor of an ‘America alone’ approach…

“The [‘U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific’ from February 2018] cited alliances and partnerships as essential, with an emphasis on a ‘shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.’ Cooperation has grown since 2017, as can be seen in the invigoration of ‘the Quad’ format (India, Japan, Australia and the United States), and growing law enforcement and intelligence cooperation against Chinese cyberwarfare and cyberespionage…

“The Chinese military in the past year has bludgeoned Indian soldiers to death along the Himalayan frontier, rammed and sunk a Vietnamese fishing boat in the South China Sea, and menaced Taiwan with its aircraft and naval vessels… The CCP is a threat to the free world: The choice for other nations is not between Washington and Beijing but between sovereignty and servitude.”
H.R. McMaster, Washington Post

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