The United States is reportedly weighing formally accusing China of “genocide” against its ethnic Muslim minority Uighurs,” two Trump administration officials are reported as saying by POLITICO.
Discussions on the issue, which is seen as potentially fraught given the possibility of a further deterioration in already frayed ties between Beijing and Washington, are said to be in the early stages, and involve working level officials at the State Department, the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security, according to the publication.
The crime of genocide is generally interpreted as pertaining to acts committed with the intent of destroying a group “in whole or in part,” according to the United Nations.
In the event that the “genocide” designation fails to win enough consensus, other fallback options suggested by the administration sources are reportedly to brand perceived atrocities against the minority by the Chinese leadership as “crimes against humanity” or “ethnic cleansing.”
No details have been suggested regarding data, metrics and sources US officials might be studying to determine whether to use the genocide label.
Moreover, according to a cited former Barack Obama administration official, the situation “would highlight the limits of what any government can do, especially when dealing with a superpower that can block collective action at the United Nations.”
The State Department did not offer a comment on the report regarding the “genocide label” said to be under discussion.
“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,” a spokesperson was quoted as saying.
National Security Council (NSC) spokesman John Ullyot similarly skirted the genocide issue, saying in a statement:
“The Chinese Communist Party’s atrocities also include the largest incarceration of an ethnic minority since World War II. Where the previous administration and many other world leaders delivered speeches and empty rhetoric, President Trump has taken bold action.”
There has been no comment yet from the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The genocide designation has been actively urged by activists and lawmakers of late.
White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien has slammed China’s communist leaders for allegedly running “concentration camps” holding “millions” of Uighurs in the northwestern province of Xinjiang.
Uighur rights groups have been leading the chorus of voices accusing the Chinese government of subjecting representatives of the minority to torture, forcing their women to get abortions and be sterilized, and demanding that people denounce Islam.
China’s Side of the Issue
Earlier this year China, which has rejected all accusations of wrongdoing, put on an exhibition in the lobby of its Chinese Embassy in Washington.
The over 40 panels presented were meant to dispel western allegations, and aspired to prove that the so-called camps were meant to teach Uighurs vocational skills and Mandarin, as a way of helping them secure jobs.
Commenting on the fresh report, a Chinese Embassy spokesman was cited by the outlet as referencing comments made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin a month ago.
“The issue concerning Xinjiang is by no means about human rights, religion or ethnicity, but about combating violent terrorism and separatism,” he said.
Genocide declarations are somewhat of a legal conundrum. The politically-sensitive pronouncements are rare, difficult to install and Washington officials have tried to dodge such declarations in the past, writes the outlet, suggesting that in theory, international law would subsequently require a degree of intervention from the US.
The report comes as Donald Trump has been increasingly frustrated with China, with the simmering trade friction between the sides further compounded by Washington’s accusations that Beijing allegedly mishandled the coronavirus pandemic, and labelling the respiratory disease the “China virus”.
The Trump administration has already imposed economic and visa sanctions on Chinese officials implicated in the alleged repressions of Uighurs, blacklisting certain Chinese entities.
Donald Trump has also followed through with executive actions to “reign in” China’s power, cracking down on TikTok and WeChat, social media networks owned by Chinese companies and accused of collecting data for the Beijing government, echoing similar government charges against Huawei Technologies.
China has repeatedly rejected all accusations of spying and other allegations of wrongdoing.