On Tuesday, in its final major foreign policy action during the Trump administration, the State Department put a formal label on the Chinese government’s actions against members of its Uighur minority: Beijing, the department declared, has been committing crimes against humanity and genocide. This last-minute action rightly calls out China’s atrocities for what they are, but the timing leaves the hard work of dealing with the consequences to the incoming Biden team.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on his last full day, issued a statement that said, “We are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state,” and Chinese authorities are “engaged in the forced assimilation and eventual erasure of a vulnerable ethnic and religious minority group, even as they simultaneously assert their country as a global leader and attempt to remold the international system in their image.”
Officials said the determination of crimes against humanity was obvious, due to extensive public evidence showing the Chinese Communist Party has subjected Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang province to many atrocities. They include the arbitrary imprisonment of more than 1 million innocent civilians, forced sterilization, torture, forced labor and severe restrictions on freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of movement.