China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, the US State Department declared in its annual human rights report to Congress, raising the stakes in the superpowers’ fraught relationship.
Anthony Blinken, the secretary of state, verbally endorsed his predecessor Mike Pompeo’s judgment that China was guilty of genocide during his confirmation hearing but the report is the first time the charge has been formally laid before Congress.
The State Department is required to submit the report annually to Congress for the government to take countries’ human rights into consideration when formulating trade and foreign policy.
The 2019 report under the Trump administration accused the Chinese government of a campaign of mass detention of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in camps in Xinjiang and “significant human rights abuses” including arbitrary killings and torture.
In the past year, information has surfaced about the Communist Party’s campaign of persecution in Xinjiang, including accounts of a mass campaign of forced sterilisation, abortion and coerced labour, prompting sanctions.
Canada, Britain and the EU joined the US last week in imposing new sanctions on four Chinese officials involved in the Xinjiang abuses, leading to retaliatory sanctions against elected politicians in all four places. China’s representatives have become increasingly aggressive in their attacks on western leaders and one diplomat lashed yesterday (Tuesday) out at Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, blaming his desire to please Washington for rocky relations with Beijing.
“Boy, your greatest achievement is to have ruined the friendly relations between China and Canada, and have turned Canada into a running dog of the US,” Li Yang, the Chinese consul-general in Rio de Janeiro, wrote. The phrase “running dog”, used to describe submissive nations, is a remnant of Maoist China. Trudeau, 49, responding by demanding China address the world’s “significant” concerns over the treatment of its Uighurs.
The state department report included new details about China’s use of forced labour in Xinjiang, the source of a growing trade dispute with the West over the past year. The report noted Xinjiang government documents had revealed a large-scale government plan, known as the “mutual pairing assistance” program, where 19 cities and provinces, mostly in eastern China, have established factories in Xinjiang and were using forced labour.
It said the labour was provided by detainees in the internment camps who were subjected to forced labour in the factories “producing garments, hair accessories, and electronics and in agricultural production, notably picking and processing cotton and tomatoes”.
The report said there was credible evidence of the forced transfer of Uighur detainees to work in technology, clothing, and automotive factories and in the production of personal protective equipment. It noted reports that transfer schemes led to forced labour of nearly half a million people in the Xinjiang cotton harvest.
Blinken, who said he wanted to place human rights at the centre of foreign policy, was also set to scrap a conservative blueprint drawn up by Pompeo limiting the promotion of human rights abroad to causes favoured by conservatives. The State Department also said it would reverse the Trump administration’s decision to remove sections on reproductive rights from the reports.