Designation of Uyghur Muslims’ Treatment in China as Genocide

Logo of United States Commission on International Religious FreedomWashington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) applauds the U.S. Department of State for designating China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region as genocide and crimes against humanity.

Secretary of State Pompeo’s pronouncement and designation today shines an essential light on China’s horrific actions against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and correctly calls this persecution what it is: genocide and crimes against humanity. We applaud the Trump administration for recognizing the scope and depth of these atrocities. It is evident from the Chinese government’s own data that the Communist Party’s policies clearly target the Uyghur, Kazakh, and other Turkic Muslim peoples.
The American government must do more to hold China to account and to end this genocide.
The incoming Biden administration has the unique opportunity to continue the hard work of confronting China’s atrocities. USCIRF encourages the U.S. government to seek an independent, international fact-finding mechanism to investigate China’s crimes against Uyghur Muslims; work with our international partners to develop measures to protect and assist the region’s most vulnerable; and swiftly impose targeted sanctions under the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act against the officials responsible for this heinous policy. We urge American and other world leaders and corporations to condemn the genocide and crimes against humanity of the Communist Party of China that have been directed at Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims. The perpetrators must be held to account.

In June 2020, USCIRF warned that the Chinese government’s repressive population control measures against Uyghur and other Muslims—including forced sterilization—meets the legal criteria for genocide under international law. Under Article II(d) of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group” is considered evidence of genocide.
Since 2017, the Chinese government under President Xi Jinping has detained more than a million Uyghur, Kazakh, and other Muslims, often targeting individuals engaged in religious practices, such as growing beards or wearing veils. According to leaked Chinese government documents, many individuals were detained because they had too many children. As stated by newly published research, the Chinese government’s sterilization policies have led birth rates in Xinjiang to plummet 24 percent last year. In addition, nearly half a million Muslim children have been separated from their families and placed in boarding schools, where they have been forced to denounce Islam and speak Mandarin.
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF called upon the administration to use its authority under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and the International Religious Freedom Act to impose targeted sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for severe religious freedom violations. Following USCIRF’s recommendation, in July 2020, the U.S. Department of Treasury sanctioned Chen Quanguo, the current Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang, and other Chinese officials.

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