WASHINGTON – On his way out the door, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out anew at China on Tuesday by declaring that its policies on Muslims and ethnic minorities in the western Xinjiang region constitute “crimes against humanity” and a “genocide.” The rarely used designation is sure to provoke an angry response from Beijing.
Pompeo made the determination just 24 hours before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. There was no immediate response from the incoming Biden team, although he and members of his national security team have expressed support for such a designation in the past.
Pompeo’s determination does not come with any immediate repercussions although the legal implications mean the U.S. must take it into account in formulating policy toward China. The U.S. has spoken out and taken action, implementing a range of sanctions against senior Chinese Communist Party leaders and state-run enterprises that fund the architecture of repression across Xinjiang.
Many of those accused of having taken part in the repression are already under U.S. sanctions. The genocide designation means new measures will be easier to impose.
“After careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that since at least March 2017, the People’s Republic of China, under the direction and control of the Chinese Communist Party, has committed crimes against humanity against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other members of ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“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. I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state."
A main reason cited for the declaration of genocide was widespread forced birth control among the Uighurs, which The Associated Press documented last year. Another reason cited, Uighur forced labor, has also been linked by AP reporting to various products imported to the U.S., including clothing and electronic goods such as cameras and computer monitors.
Tuesday’s move is the latest in a series of steps the outgoing Trump administration has taken against China.