The determination, issued on the last day of Trump’s tenure, has no immediate effect but risks straining US-China relations.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration has determined that China has committed “genocide and crimes against humanity” in its crackdown on Uyghur Muslims in its Xinjiang region.
“After careful consideration of the facts available, I have determined that the [People’s Republic of China], under the direction and control of [Chinese Communist Party], has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang, ”Pompeo said in a statement on Tuesday.
The statement claims that “comprehensive documentation” of events “confirms that since at least March 2017, local authorities have dramatically stepped up their decades-long campaign of repression against Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic groups and religious minorities, notably the Kazakhs and the Kyrgyz ”.
The decision comes a day before US President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Biden’s campaign declared genocide was performing in Xinjiang before the president-elect’s victory.
“I believe that this genocide is underway and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy the Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state,” Pompeo added.
I have determined that the People’s Republic of China is in the process of committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, targeting Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.
– Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 19, 2021
Reuters news agency reported that US officials briefing reporters on the move said in an appeal that “extensive documentation of [China’s] his own policies, practices and abuses in Xinjiang ”, seen by Pompeo, led him to conclude that such acts had been committed since at least March 2017.
“This is a very serious and tragic set of actions taking place over there in the western part of China,” Pompeo said in an interview Tuesday on US television station Fox News.
“It’s about forced sterilization, forced abortions – the kinds of things we haven’t seen for a very long time in this world,” Pompeo said.
He said the designation was something they had been working on “for a very long time.”
This decision is likely to increase the deterioration of ties between the world’s major economies.
Washington has stepped up sanctions against Beijing for alleged abuses in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and military incursions into the disputed South China Sea.
The Trump administration has also sanctioned Huawei, one of China’s top telecommunications companies, as it plans to expand in Europe and North America.
The rare move comes after Congress passed a law on Dec. 27 requiring the U.S. administration to determine within 90 days whether forced labor or other alleged crimes against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are crimes against the humanity or genocide.
China has been largely critical for the complexes in Xinjiang which he describes as “vocational training centers” to eradicate “extremism” and give people new skills, but which others have called concentration camps.
Beijing denies genocide charges.
Pompeo’s determination has no immediate effects, although it shines a light on Xinjiang, one of the world’s leading cotton-producing regions.
Last week, the United States banned all cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang.
Pompeo said on Tuesday that “the threat from the Chinese Communist Party is real. It is existential for the United States ”, and that it“ counts on the next administration to continue our work ”.