Abuses range from arbitrary detention and torture to restrictions on freedoms and the prosecution of critics.
By Roseanne Gerin and Alim Seytoff
Police officers patrol the old town of Kashgar in northwestern China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, May 4, 2021.
China’s abuses targeting Uyghurs, Hongkongers and Tibetans are among some of the worst human rights violations around the world, the U.S. Department of State said Tuesday.
“The Chinese government continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs among other minority groups, to erode fundamental freedoms and autonomy in Hong Kong, and to carry out systematic repression in Tibet,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a press briefing before the release of the department’s 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
The report, which the State Department is required to release each year by law, details the state of human rights and worker rights in 198 countries and territories.
The administration of former President Donald Trump officially determined in January 2021 that abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regions (XUAR) amounted to state-sponsored genocide and crimes against humanity. President Biden’s administration has agreed with the designation and has worked with its international allies on measures to hold the Chinese government to account.
The 90 pages in the report that are dedicated to China focus on the XUAR and the arbitrary imprisonment of more than 1 million civilians in extrajudicial internment camps and the additional 2 million who are subjected to daytime-only “re-education” training. The report also cited evidence of forced labor, forced sterilizations of women, coerced abortions, more restrictive birth control policies, rape and torture, and draconian restrictions on freedoms of religion and expression.
The report cited an Oct. 21, 2021, report by RFA that said more than 170 Uyghurs, including woman and minors, in Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) were detained by national security authorities on China’s National Day holiday because they allegedly displaying resistance to the country during flag-raising activities.
Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, said the State Department’s report is important because it highlights the most urgent crises around the world.
“The Uyghur genocide is one of them,” he told RFA. “This reports is important in the sense that it must be used as a reminder that international inaction in the face of Uyghur genocide will lead to the deterioration of human rights around the world.”
“The international community must act,” he said. “The Uyghur people have suffered enough in the past five years.”
Campaign for Uyghurs also welcomed the human rights report.
“Uyghurs are really delighted to see this strong stance to call China out for its crimes of genocide, and standing firmly on the values that ought to be advocated by the United States precisely concerning liberty, respect and freedom for the principles of humanity,” said the organization’s executive director Rushan Abbas in a statement.
The report also notes rights violations in Hong Kong, Tibet and other parts of China, including serious limits on free expression and the media. Journalists, lawyers, writers and bloggers have suffered from physical attacks and criminal prosecution.
The U.S. supports human rights by meeting with advocates, journalists and others to document abuses and works with the Treasury Department to apply sanctions and visa restrictions on human rights abusers, Blinken said. It also collects, preserves and analyzes evidence of atrocities.
In March, the U.S. government imposed new sanctions against Chinese officials over the repression of Uyghurs in China and elsewhere, prompting an angry response from Beijing and a pledge to respond with sanctions of its own.
At the time, Blinken said the U.S. would restrict visas on unnamed individuals he said were involved in repressive acts by China against members of ethnic and religious minority groups inside and outside the country’s borders, including within the U.S.
Blinken noted that even though the U.S. has its own human rights shortcomings, the country openly acknowledges them and tries to address them.
“Respecting human rights is a fundamental part of upholding the international rules-based order which is crucial to America’s enduring security and prosperity,” he said. “Governments that violate human rights are almost always the same ones that flout other key parts of that order.”