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Secretary of State nominee agrees with ‘genocide’ determination for Uyghurs

shutterstock_1454765561_1.jpg Chinese flags on barbed wired wall in Kashgar (Kashi), Xinjiang, China. Credit: Jonathan Densford/Shutterstock

President Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State agrees with his predecessor’s declaration that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is committing genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang.

“That would be my judgment as well,” said Antony Blinken, President Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, when asked by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday if he agreed with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s genocide designation.

Blinken appeared before members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday for a hearing considering his nomination to Biden’s cabinet. He also said he was “very much in agreement” with the Trump administration’s view of the situation in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.

On January 19, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he had “determined that the People’s Republic of China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, targeting Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.”

Pompeo stated, “[t]he People’s Republic of China and the CCP must be held to account.” 

On Tuesday, Blinken said that the gravity and scope of the atrocities committed in Xinjiang against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and others has risen to the level of genocide.

“The forcing of men, women and children into concentration camps; trying to, in effect, re-educate them to be adherents to the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party, all of that speaks to an effort to commit genocide,” he said. 

Xinjiang, a region in China’s northwest nearly three times the size of France, is home to 23 million Turkic people including Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslim minorities. 

China has escalated its control over the region in recent decades, citing national security as the reason for its crackdowns on public assemblies and freedom of movement.

Beginning in 2017, China constructed a system of around 1,300 detention camps where up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are estimated to have been imprisoned. Detainees have reportedly been subject to forced labor, indoctrination, beatings, and torture.

Uyghurs outside the camps are also subject to mass surveillance, including DNA sampling, facial recognition technology, and predictive policing platforms.

The largely-Muslim population has also been subject to repression of religious practice, such as men growing beards or women wearing veils; children have reportedly been separated from their families and forced to denounce Islam.

In addition, the AP reported in June that many Uyghur women were subject to forced abortions, sterilizations and implantations of IUDs as part of China’s coercive family planning limits of two children per family.

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In August, two Asian cardinals joined 74 other religious leaders in a joint statement decrying the treatment of the Uyghurs as “one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust.”

Pompeo on Jan. 19 said he believes “this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state.”

“The governing authorities of the second most economically, militarily, and politically powerful country on earth have made clear that they are engaged in the forced assimilation and eventual erasure of a vulnerable ethnic and religious minority group, even as they simultaneously assert their country as a global leader and attempt to remold the international system in their image,” he said.

If confirmed as secretary of state, Blinken said that he would look to possibly banning imports of products suspected to be made by Uyghurs in forced labor situations, and would also seek to ban exports to China that could be used to repress the Uyghur population and other ethnic minorities.

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In August, Joe Biden’s campaign referred to the treatment of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang as “genocide.”

“The unspeakable oppression that Uighurs and other ethnic minorities have suffered at the hands of China’s authoritarian government is genocide and Joe Biden stands against it in the strongest terms,” said campaign spokesman Andrew Bates.

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