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Biden’s Pick for Secretary of State Agrees with Mike Pompeo: Repression of Uyghurs is Genocide

On Jan. 19, outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released an official statement that the repression of Uyghurs is genocide and amounts to “crimes against humanity.” The Uyghurs are a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority living in China’s Xinjiang autonomous region. 

In his Senate confirmation hearing, President Joe Biden’s pick for Secretary of State Tony Blinken agreed with Pompeo’s statement: “Forcing 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.” 

Since March 2017, The Chinese regime has ramped up its persecution of the Uyghur people.  In its 2021 World Report, Human Rights Watch reported that authorities in Xinjiang have built over 260 “massive” detention structures since 2017, which supports the conclusion that Chinese authorities are imprisoning Uyghurs “en masse.”

“Their [CCP] morally repugnant, wholesale policies, practices, and abuses are designed systematically to discriminate against and surveil ethnic Uyghurs as a unique demographic and ethnic group, restrict their freedom to travel, emigrate, and attend schools, and deny other basic human rights of assembly, speech, and worship. PRC authorities have conducted forced sterilizations and abortions on Uyghur women, coerced them to marry non-Uyghurs, and separated Uyghur children from their families,” Pompeo wrote in his report. 

While Chinese officials tell international observers that they are attempting to educate Uyghurs and eliminate religious extremism, the language used to explain the situation to Chinese people within the region is drastically different and disturbing, as Uyghurs are described as “malignant tumors” and their faith is portrayed as a “communicable plague.” Government authorities have gone so far as to compare Uyghurs to weeds by saying: “You can’t uproot all the weeds hidden among the crops in the field one-by-one; you need to spray chemicals to kill them all,” according to Pompeo’s report. 

Last July, when Liu Xiaoming, a Chinese diplomat, was confronted about the treatment of Uyghurs and shown drone footage of inmates being blindfolded and paraded off of a train in large numbers, he claimed that he “did not know” what the video was showing. He also denied the sterilization of Uyghur women. This is not surprising since Chinese leader Xi Jinping expected and anticipated foreign criticism of the regime’s draconian crackdown on the Uyghurs, which started in 2014 as a reaction to terrorist activity that police blamed on Uighur “separatists.” “Don’t be afraid if hostile forces whine, or if hostile forces malign the image of Xinjiang,” Mr. Xi said.

The CCP has rejected international criticism of Uyghur camps and claims that they are job training centers that use mild methods directed toward eliminating Islamic extremism. Anyone who complains of the treatment of Uyghurs in China is told to be “grateful for the party’s help and to stay quiet,” according to a New York Times report.

In his statement, Pompeo said that the U.S. gets involved in holding human rights abusers accountable “not because we are compelled to act by any international court, multilateral body, or domestic political concern. We do so because it is right.”

Pompeo concluded his report by saying: “If the Chinese Communist Party is allowed to commit genocide and crimes against humanity against its own people, imagine what it will be emboldened to do to the free world, in the not-so-distant future.” The State Department under the Trump administration was vocal about religious persecution in China and took a hard line against Beijing overall.

In his Senate confirmation hearing, Blinken indicated that while he did not agree with many of Donald Trump’s ways of doing things, he thinks he had the right approach to China:  “Do you have any doubt in your mind that the goal of the Chinese Communist Party is to be the world’s predominant political, geopolitical, military and economic power? And for the United States to decline in relation?” Senator Marco Rubio asked Blinken, who replied: “I have no doubt.”

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  • David Wagner is a University of Manitoba graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Religion in Sociology. He is interested in the psychology of religious and ideological belief and the relationship between religions and the state in totalitarian countries.

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