U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has officially declared China’s treatment of the Uyghurs population to be “genocide” and “crimes against humanity.”
China’s mass internment, forced labour and forced sterilization of over one million members of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang has been heavily documented. The State Department’s declaration constitutes the first official condemnation of China’s actions as an actual genocide.
"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 in a statement on Tuesday.
Pompeo described the human rights abuses as “ongoing,” which include the arbitrary imprisonment of over one million people, forced sterilization, forced labour and continued torture of detainees. Pompeo also condemned China’s restrictions on religious freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of movement.
According to Axios, Pompeo’s statements follow his orders for an internal review overseen by Morse Tan, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for the Office of Global Criminal Justice, to investigate China’s actions in Xinjiang and determine if they constitute genocide and crimes against humanity.
The Biden campaign has also decried China’s actions as a “genocide.” Until now, it was unclear if the Trump administration would make the genocide label a formal declaration.
"If we had been able to do it sooner, we would have," a senior administration official said, according to Axios. "We have been working on this for years now. We have struggled from day one, since we came to see the contours of what is going on in Xinjiang, with what to call it."
Other countries, including the United Kingdom, have also condemned China’s actions in Xinjiang. In early January, U.K. Foreign Minister Dominic Raab called China’s actions akin to “barbarism,” and threatened heavy fines for companies that could not prove that their supply chains are free of forced labour. The European Union has also passed a law, also known as the Magnitsky Act, to make it easier to punish human rights violators.
Evidence shows that China has been constructing massive detention centres across Xinjiang, capable of holding over a million detainees, since 2017. Leaked documents from the Chinese government, as well as survivor testimonies, reveal the extent of the abuse in these detention centres, which human rights activists have compared to modern-day concentration camps.
Numerous companies including Nike, BMW, Adidas and dozens of others were implicated in a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on the forced labor of the Uyghurs in factories across China, in a Beijing policy known as “Xinjiang Aid.” The report identified 27 factories which supplied materials to 83 identified multinational corporations.