In Focus

Will other nations join US in accusing China of ‘genocide’ against Uighurs?

Mike Pompeo warns that the slaughter ‘is on-going’ as MPs vote against amendment to UK-China trade bill

The US State Department has officially determined that the Chinese government is committing genocide and crimes against humanity against Uighur Muslims.  

“I believe this genocide is on-going, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state,” said outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement. Chinese authorities are “engaged in the forced assimilation and eventual erasure of a vulnerable ethnic and religious minority group”, he added.

The “rare move” by the departing Donald Trump administration could lead the US to impose more sanctions on China as Joe Biden takes over in the Oval Office, The New York Times reports. The incoming president argued in a statement last August that Beijing’s treatment of the Uighurs amounted to genocide.

The State Department’s intervention came shortly before lawmakers in the UK voted by 319 to 308 against a trade bill amendment aimed at forcing the termination of any deal with a country that the High Court determines to be committing genocide.

But Pompeo’s statement may “embolden” peers in the Lords to try and introduce the law again, says The Guardian.

British officials reportedly hope that taking a robust position on Beijing may endear the government to the Biden administration.

Incoming national security advisor Jake Sullivan tweeted a request last month for the EU to take “common concerns” about China into account as the bloc finalised the details of an investment deal with the Asian superpower.

Although the deal was signed despite Sullivan’s appeal, his country’s strong position may lead to other nations also adopting the use of the word genocide to describe China’s campaign against Uighurs, piling “unprecedented international pressure” on Beijing, says the BBC.

The treatment of the minority group was pushed back into the global spotlight last June following the publication of a study by China scholar Adrian Zenz, an independent contractor with the nonprofit Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington D.C.

Zenz raised “serious concerns as to whether Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang represent, in fundamental respects, what might be characterised as a demographic campaign of genocide” under UN definitions.

Germany subsequently led dozens of countries, including the US, UK and Japan, in demanding that Beijing respect the rights of its Muslim Uighurs.

The Berlin-led group fell short of using the word genocide, however. As the BBC notes,“economic ties with China have become too substantial to be entirely cut off” for many nations.

“Between human rights and economic interests, the balancing act towards China is getting increasingly difficult,” the broadcaster adds.

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