United States Makes Landmark Designation of Uyghur Genocide

On January 19th, the final full day of President Trump’s Administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a landmark decision, designating China’s persecution and treatment of Uyghurs as genocide. Sticking true to his word, Secretary Pompeo asserts that “the United States of America has led the world in holding the perpetrators of the most heinous human rights abuses accountable.” Now, as the United States makes this crucial designation, we – along with numerous other human rights organizations and activists – call on other governments across the world to follow suit.

See some excerpts of Pompeo’s statement below:

“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. These crimes are ongoing and include: the arbitrary imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than one million civilians, forced sterilization, torture of a large number of those arbitrarily detained, forced labor, and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement…. In addition, after careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that the PRC, under the direction and control of the CCP, has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.

Secretary Pompeo’s designation has been welcomed by numerous Uyghur diaspora organizations and human rights organizations:

“Today, history has been written not only for Uyghurs, but for all of humanity. Uyghurs have been looking for accountability for years, and this is the first time a government designates the Uyghur crisis as a genocide. It shows that genocide will not be tolerated in the 21st century, and this will hopefully incite other governments to take concrete action.”World Uyghur Congress

“The implications are enormous. It’s unthinkable to continue ‘business as usual’ with a state committing genocide and crimes against humanity. Whether it’s the 2022 Beijing Olympics or climate change, governments and companies can’t ignore the Uyghurs’ living nightmare. We have been waiting for this determination for a long time.” – Omer Kanat, Executive Director, Uyghur Human Rights Project

“We applaud the Trump administration for recognizing the scope and depth of these atrocities. It is evident from the Chinese government’s own data that the Communist Party’s policies clearly target the Uyghur, Kazakh, and other Turkic Muslim peoples. The American government must do more to hold China to account and to end this genocide. The incoming Biden administration has the unique opportunity to continue the hard work of confronting China’s atrocities.” – United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)

“The designation is a crucial step in pushing back against the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign against religions. The Uyghur people, a predominantly Muslim group, have been undergoing severe abuse by growing police state and surveillance in the region. An estimated 1 – 3 million Uyghurs are being held in ‘reeducation camps’ for reasons shown in leaked documents as simple as growing a beard, wearing a veil, or having a home with a ‘dense religious atmosphere.’ The evidence of genocide are seen in mass arbitrary detentions, forced sterilizations, torture, and an intricate forced labor system.ChinaAid Association

Pompeo’s designation comes just hours after the United Kingdom House of Commons failed to pass the Genocide Amendment to the Trade Bill. You can read about this, and Lord David Alton’s response, here. However, all hope is not lost with regards to the UK declaring China’s egregious persecution of the Uyghurs as genocide. Lord Alton reflects that “Just 6 more good men and women of the Conservative benches need to change their minds and the High Court will be given the task of deciding whether a Genocide is under way in States with which we have trade agreements”, in this most pertinent case, China.

World Uyghur Congress does draw attention to Canada’s recent efforts regarding China’s persecution of the Uyghurs. Months ago, in October 2020, the Canadian Subcommittee on Human Rights conducted an investigation and concluded that “the Subcommittee is persuaded that the actions of the Chinese Communist Party constitute genocide as laid out in the Genocide Convention.”

Jubilee Campaign echoes the calls of UHRP and WUC on United Nations Member States to similarly designate the Uyghur crisis as genocide, to kickstart an independent monitoring mechanism regarding Chinese human rights and, of course, the calls on the upcoming Biden Administration to continue the United States’ efforts in holding China accountable for crimes against humanity and genocide.

Cover image by numb3r on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)