The US State Department has declared that China is devoting genocide and crimes against humanity in a campaign targeting Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
In a statement, outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “I think this genocide is ongoing, and that we are seeing the methodical effort to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state.”
The designation was made in the passing away hours of the Trump administration. But the incoming Biden team had actually previously voiced its support for such a meaning, labelling the repression of Uighurs genocide in August last year.
And although Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has promised to reverse a host of President Trump’s foreign policy steps, he stated that he concurred with Mr Pompeo’s decision.
In his determination of criminal offenses versus humanity, Pompeo cited “the arbitrary imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than one million civilians, required sterilisation, abuse of a great deal of those arbitrarily detained, required labour, and the imposition of severe constraints on civil liberty or belief, flexibility of expression, and flexibility of motion”.
Beijing is most likely to react furiously. At a press conference held recently in the Chinese capital, Communist Part authorities Xu Guixiang said: “This absolutely untethered fabrication of ‘genocide’ concerning Xinjiang is the conspiracy of the century.”
Analysis: Condemnation of China might be the only point of consensus between Biden and Trump
The US labelling China’s treatment of Uighurs and other minorities as genocide is the most considerable intervention on the issue. It may get lost in the pageantry these days’s inauguration, and the pressing domestic concerns of the US, however it will reverberate for months and years to come.
China’s response is ensured to be apoplectic. However it will seek to depict the genocide classification as encouraged by politics, the last gasp of an outbound administration and the individual vendetta of Mike Pompeo – public opponent number one in Chinese propaganda.
Critics somewhere else might concur with some of that. The Trump administration was not well known for its security of minorities and human rights, whether in the house or abroad. The United States overlooked calls to state Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya as genocide, for example.
And President Trump previously sidestepped human rights problems in his dealings with China, choosing at first to focus on trade. His previous national security advisor John Bolton alleged that in July 2019 President Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he was appropriate to build detention centres for Uighurs.
The classification isn’t excessive of a curveball for the Biden administration, which has voiced its agreement – perhaps the only point of agreement between 2 vastly different administrations. For all the division in the United States, it is unified on China.
However it may make things more difficult for America’s allies. The British government directly beat an amendment to legislation that would have included a genocide clause to trade expenses, a provision intended squarely at China. And the EU has just recently concluded its own huge trade deal with China. The Biden administration may take a dim view of all that, and the genocide classification adds more moral heft.
In useful terms, the classification legally allows the US to take some new measures, although none of those are huge. The power is in the symbolism. And that significance may be most apparent in a year’s time, when the 2022 Winter season Olympics begin in Beijing.
It’s hard to picture Team U.S.A. competing in a country the US federal government implicates of continuous genocide. Would other countries sign up with that boycott?