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Radio Free Asia

US Weighs Genocide Label Over China's Treatment of Uyghurs

2020-08-26 -- U.S. officials are considering whether to formally label as "genocide" China's treatment of ethnic Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where Chinese authorities have put as many as 1.8 million members of the Muslim minority group into reeducation camps, U.S. media said Wednesday.

Beijing describes its three-year-old network of camps in the XUAR as voluntary "vocational centers" that provide job skills and combat extremism, but reporting by RFA and other media outlets shows that detainees are held against their will in poor conditions, where they are forced to endure inhumane treatment and political indoctrination.

Talks about the possible genocide designation are now being held by officials at the State Department, National Security Council, and Department of Homeland Security but are "still at the early stages," the online journal Politico said in an Aug. 25 report, citing unnamed administration officials.

"If there's not enough consensus to use the term genocide, the administration could instead accuse the Chinese leadership of other atrocities, such as 'crimes against humanity' or 'ethnic cleansing,' Politico said.

The United States has already hit out at Beijing's treatment of the Uyghurs, with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump recently sanctioning Chinese officials and business entities deemed responsible for the camps and for programs of forced labor and population control.

The White House declined to comment on the reported genocide deliberations, but NSC Spokesman John Ullyot issued a statement listing recent U.S. sanctions and other measures against forced labor, forced abortions and sterilizations, and other abuses in Xinjiang.

"Beijing's atrocities against the Uyghurs include horrific acts against women including forced abortion, forced sterilization, and other coercive birth control methods, state-sponsored forced labor, sexual violence including through rape in detention, compulsory home-stays by Han [Chinese] officials, and forced marriages," said the statement.

"The Chinese Communist Party's atrocities also include the largest incarceration of an ethnic minority since World War II," Ullyot added.

'Consistently vocal'

Reached for comment on genocide deliberations, a State Department official declined to comment on possible moves by the Administration but affirmed U.S. opposition to what he called China's "horrific practices in Xinjiang."

"The Administration has been consistently vocal about its concerns of human rights violations and abuse of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, including coercive population control measures such as forced abortion and forced sterilization," the official said.

"We are working hard to encourage the People's Republic of China to cease its human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and are constantly evaluating various measures. We do not comment on potential actions."

Nury Turkel, a commissioner on the bipartisan United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said his independent federal government body wants the Trump administration to move ahead with the proposed designation.

"USCIRF has been urging the Secretary of State to formally designate the atrocities that Communist China has committed as genocide," Turkel said, adding that China's separation of Uyghur children from their families and growing campaign to prevent Uyghur population growth fall within the list of provisions meeting the legal definition of genocide.

"The U.S. government's official recognition of genocide would help to end atrocities," Turkel said.

In response to the Politico report, Andrew Bates, the spokesman for the presidential campaign of Joe Biden, issued a statement saying: "The unspeakable oppression that Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have suffered at the hands of China's authoritarian government is genocide and Joe Biden stands against it in the strongest terms."

A U.S. finding of genocide in Xinjiang would "galvanize other nations and organizations to go after China and seek legal accountability from the officials involved, along with reparations for the suffering of the Uyghurs," said Dolkun Isa–president of the Germany-based exile World Uyghur Congress.

According to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the U.S. State Department has "made statements that genocide has occurred" in five cases since the end of the cold War: Bosnia (1993), Rwanda (1994), Iraq (1995), Darfur (2004), and areas under the control of ISIS (2016 and 2017).

Reported by RFA's Uyghur Service. Translated by Alim Seytoff. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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