A day before President Biden's inauguration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo decided that China's treatment of Muslim Uyghurs and other minority groups in the western region of Xinjiang should be officially recognized as an attempted genocide.
While the clue was at least two years in the making, it was in part a direct response to new information documented by the Associated Press and humanitarian groups last summer. The AP investigation, based on state documents and interviews with 30 ex-inmates and a former detention camp instructor, found that the Chinese government has used forced sterilization, abortions and forced birth control to reduce the Muslim population – even as it encouraged the Han majority of the land to have more children.
Some religious freedom experts believe that Pompeo, who led the international charge against China for the persecution and internment of Uyghurs, deliberately tried to tie the hands of the new Biden government over its Chinese policies.
But if the new administration feels trapped in the move, don't show it – at least not yet.
Human rights activists, watching closely for signs that Biden will uphold the Trump administration's commitment to curb religious persecution around the world, are impressed by the early messages from his top foreign policy officials. The real test, they add, will be how these early words translate into policy.
New Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who confirmed to the Senate Tuesday, testified last week that President Trump was "right about taking a tougher approach to China," although Blinken said he disagreed with many of the ways Trump did it. But when it comes to Pompeo & # 39; s classification of the Chinese treatment of the Uyghurs as & # 39; genocide & # 39 ;, the aspiring chief diplomat did not hesitate. In his appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Blinken said he and Pompeo are “very in agreement” on the designation. “That would be my judgment too,” he added.
President Biden has criticized the Trump administration for leaving it with a COVID vaccine "mess" and the related job losses and expulsion crises of the pandemic, but when it comes to China's human rights abuses, the new commander in chief has the ranks closed with its predecessor.
Late last week, the White House issued its strongest statement of unity with Trump policy to date after China imposed sanctions on 28 former government officials, including Pompeo and former national security adviser Robert O'Brien, who said Beijing was serious about interfered in China's internal affairs. And "China-US severely disrupted relations."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden-Harris administration views China's sanctions as an "unproductive and cynical" attempt to play one government off against another, urging all Americans to condemn them.
"President Biden is looking forward to working with leaders in both sides to position America to outpace China," she said.
With regard to the systemic persecution of the Chinese Uyghur population, Blinken reiterated his boss's aforementioned position. In August, Biden took an unequivocal position.
"The unspeakable oppression that Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have suffered at the hands of China's authoritarian government is genocide, and Joe Biden is against it in the strongest terms," his campaign said in a statement.
Blinken continued last week, saying he would look for ways to follow up on the previous government's genocide provision, including the possible move to ban the export to China of goods – such as surveillance equipment – that the government can use against the Uyghurs . , along with imports from China of goods made with forced Uyghur labor.
The issue of imports is particularly sensitive as forced Uyghur labor has been linked to popular US clothing brands such as Nike and Calvin Klein, and Trump's US Customs and Border Protection Agency last fall imported certain clothing and cotton products that were imported into the Xinjiang region. produced. .
Nina Shea, the director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, a conservative foreign policy think tank, finds it encouraging that the new government has readily agreed with Pompeo on the genocide's determination. Shea also dismissed media coverage of the designation as Pompeo & # 39; s & # 39; farewell photo & # 39; at Biden. Instead, she described it as the culmination of two years of troubling information leaked from China about the oppression, internment and abuse of Uyghurs.
"The United States is at the forefront of this in the world," Shea said, because no other government has confronted China by calling forced sterilization and other forms of persecution by its rightful name.
"Genocide is basically the destruction of a people – in whole or in part – through specific acts," she told RealClearPolitics. “We tend to regard the Holocaust as mass murders. But the whole point of the genocide laws since WWII and the Nazi era was to prevent mass killings. "
The advanced Chinese government wants to try to hide its atrocities so that there is no impact on international trade, Shea added. "Beijing is thus following the more medically advanced method of suppressing or stopping births," she said.
A former special adviser on religious minorities in the Obama and Trump administrations said Blinken's decision to support Pompeo "sends a strong signal to Beijing of the importance of human rights regardless of governance."
"For these statements to be made, there must be accountability," said the former State Department official, who asked for anonymity to speak up on the sensitive determination of genocide. Biden's government, the source said, should find "targeted" ways to hold the Chinese government to account by imposing global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act sanctions on Chinese officials involved in detaining and abusing Uyghurs .
"Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27 reminds us of the need to do more to prevent genocides from happening again," the former official said. "The start of the Biden administration offers a unique opportunity to enact a policy of consequences when massive atrocities occur."
Proponents within the Uyghur community are encouraged by the strong statements of both outgoing and incoming governments, but argue that much more action is needed to educate the American public about the products they buy from Uyghur slave labor and to prevent US dollars support this.
Lou Ann Sabatier of the 21 Wilberforce Initiative, a human rights organization dedicated to the international defense of religious people, called the genocide determination a & # 39; wake-up call to the world & # 39; which must be supported by further efforts to document the abuses and hold the Chinese government accountable.
In an essay For the Washington Post, Rushan Abbas, the founder and executive director of Campaign for Uyghurs, detained her sister, a doctor from the Xinjiang region, more than two years ago. & # 39; China has grabbed my sister. Biden has to fight for her and all enslaved Uyghurs, ”she wrote.
The Chinese government sentenced Abbas's sister to 20 years in prison on charges of "terrorism" in what the rights advocate describes as a "mock trial". Abbas believes her sister has been forced into forced labor as part of the Chinese prison system and likely produces goods that American customers buy and consume.
“What's more shocking than the Chinese government's contempt for human rights and international law is that international companies are knowingly complicit in this genocide,” she wrote. "Slavery is normalizing in the modern world, and we consumers are making it possible."
Most Americans are unaware that 20% of the world's cotton products come from the Xinjiang region, she claimed.
"Modern slavery is intertwined with cotton T-shirts, pillowcases and sneaker laces," Abbas said. “… Seventy-five years ago, Siemens, BMW and Volkswagen took advantage of the exploitation of Jewish workers in Nazi Germany. "Never again" seems to be happening all over again. "
Abbas calls on Biden's government to remove the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which Congress passed almost unanimously last summer. The law imposes sanctions on entities and individuals involved in the human rights violations and requires the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to submit a secret report to Congress on the extent and extent of the detention and forced labor of Muslim minorities in China. She also urged the administration to give priority to Section 307 of the Tariff Act, which prohibits the importation of goods made with forced labor.
"I strongly believe that President Biden and his team have a firm commitment to hold the Chinese regime to account, along with the companies that consciously choose to be complicit in these crimes against humanity," Abbas wrote. . "The international community is watching, China is watching, and it is no exaggeration that the future of our democratic world and freedom is at stake."
. (tagsToTranslate) Mike Pompeo (t) Antony Blinken (t) Joe Biden (t) Uyghur genocide