President Joe Biden believes the Chinese regime has committed “genocide” and “crimes against humanity” against Uyghur Muslims in the region of Xinjiang—a designation that was announced by the Trump administration a day before the presidential inauguration.
“President Biden has called the oppression of the Uyghurs a genocide, and he stands against it in the strongest possible terms,” National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne told the Washington Examiner.
The Trump administration made the move on the eve of Biden’s inauguration, marking another tough measure to condemn the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) severe human rights abuses domestically.
The administration also determined that the CCP had committed crimes against humanity in the region, citing Beijing’s detention of more than 1 million Uyghurs and other ethnic or religious minorities, and authorities subjecting the population to forced labor, forced sterilization, and torture.
According to the United Nations, genocide is the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.”
While the designation carries no automatic penalties, it marked a rare step for the federal government, which has historically been hesitant to make the move against a key trading partner. The designation may now see more companies and countries pressuring China for transparency on its treatment of minorities.
Biden’s secretary of state nominee Anthony Blinken had, a few days before Horne’s confirmation of the president’s stance, said he agrees with the “genocide” designation. He said on Jan. 19 that he believed former President Donald Trump correctly took a tougher approach to the Chinese regime, and endorsed the administration’s assessment that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been committing genocide in Xinjiang.
“That would be my judgment as well,” Blinken said, when asked whether he agreed with outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assessment of the CCP’s actions.
“I think we’re very much in agreement,” he said. “The forcing of men, women, and children into concentration camps; trying to, in effect, reeducate them to be adherents to the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party, all of that speaks to an effort to commit genocide.”
China denies U.S. accusations of human rights violations. However, Beijing’s repression in Xinjiang, perpetrated through its network of internment camps and mass surveillance system, has drawn international condemnation.
The CCP’s mass sterilization program for Uyghur women, as well as other rights abuses against the Uyghur population, have been well-documented.
Cathy He and Reuters contributed to this report.