The US State Department under the Biden administration is reviewing an eleventh hour decision by the Trump administration to designate as genocide China’s oppression of its minority Muslim Uyghurs to make sure that it sticks.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, President Biden’s pick to represent the US at the United Nations, said during her confirmation hearing that China’s treatment of Uyghur’s is “horrific” but that the genocide designation is under review.
“I think the State Department is reviewing that now because all of the procedures were not followed and I think that they’re looking to make sure that they are followed to ensure that that designation is held,” Thomas-Greenfield told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.
On his last day in office, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China has committed genocide, “after careful examination of the available facts,” accusing the Chinese Communist Party of crimes against humanity targeting the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.
China has been widely condemned for its prison complexes in Xinjiang, which it describes as “vocational training centres” to stamp out extremism. It denies accusations of abuse.
Later on Wednesday, a bipartisan group of US senators said it had reintroduced legislation intended to bar any goods made with forced labour in Xinjiang from entering the United States.
The rare American genocide determination came after Congress passed legislation on Dec. 27 requiring the US administration to determine within 90 days whether China had committed crimes against humanity or genocide.
Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told the foreign relations panel during his confirmation hearing last week that he agreed with the genocide declaration.
China’s embassy in Washington had responded to Pompeo’s announcement, saying: “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.”
The Uyghur forced-labour bill passed the House of Representatives by a huge margin last year, but had to be introduced again because it did not pass the Senate and become law before the new Congress was seated this month. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)