China may have committed “genocide” in its treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in its western region of Xinjiang, a bipartisan US Congressional commission said in a new report.
The Congressional Executive Commission on China (CCCB) said on Thursday that new evidence had emerged over the past year that “crimes against humanity – and possibly genocide – are taking place.”
The CCCB has also accused China of harassing Uyghurs in the United States.
China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in Xinjiang which it describes as “vocational training centers” to eradicate “extremism” and give people new skills, but others have called them camps. of concentration.
The United Nations says at least a million Uyghurs and other Muslims have been detained in Xinjiang.
Religious leaders, activist groups and others have said crimes against humanity, including genocide, are being committed there. Beijing denies accusations of abuse.
The CCCB report called for a “formal United States determination of whether atrocities are being committed” in Xinjiang, and such a determination is required within 90 days of the passage of US law on the 27th. December.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in his final days before President-elect Joe Biden succeeded President Donald Trump on Jan.20, has already weighed in determination, although given the current unrest in Washington, officials have played down the possibility of an announcement before this.
‘Shocking and unprecedented’
CECC Co-Chair Democratic Representative Jim McGovern called China’s actions to crush human rights over the past year “shocking and unprecedented” and urged Congress and the new administration Biden to hold Beijing responsible.
“The United States must continue to stand by the Chinese people in their struggle and lead the world in a united and coordinated response to the human rights violations by the Chinese government,” he said.
Relations between the world’s two greatest economic powers have plunged to an all-time low in recent years amid disagreements over issues such as human rights, the coronavirus pandemic, trade, espionage and a law over the national security imposed on Hong Kong.
Experts say a genocide determination would be a huge embarrassment for China, the world’s second-largest economy and a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
It could also pose problems for Biden by complicating his relations with Beijing, after his campaign had already declared, before the November elections, that genocide was underway in Xinjiang.
In October, Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Beijing was committing “something akin” to the genocide in Xinjiang and that other officials had referred to camps in Xinjiang. concentration.
In international law, crimes against humanity are defined as widespread and systematic, while the burden of proof of genocide – the intention to destroy part of a population – may be more difficult to prove.
Expectations that Pompeo might declare genocide were raised in June when he called reports “shocking” and “disturbing” that China was using forced sterilization, forced abortion and coercive family planning against women. Muslims.
He was referring to a report last year on the situation in Xinjiang by German researcher Adrian Zenz, which the CECC report also cited.
Zenz said his findings represented the strongest evidence to date that Beijing’s policy in Xinjiang met one of the criteria cited in the UN Genocide Convention, namely “the imposition of measures intended prevent births in the [targeted] group”.
A US declaration of genocide would mean countries would have to seriously consider the possibility of allowing companies to do business with Xinjiang, one of the world’s major cotton suppliers. It would also increase the pressure for further US sanctions against China.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Wednesday said the United States is imposing a region-wide ban on all cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over claims they are subject to labor forced by detained Uyghurs.