The State Department claims China’s crimes against humanity include arbitrary imprisonment or detainment of more than 1 million civilians, forced labor and sterilization, torture and restrictions on basic freedoms.
(CN) — On its way out the door, the Trump administration on Tuesday accused the Chinese government of committing genocide, strongly denouncing its treatment of the Uighur people and other minorities.
“While the CCP has always exhibited a profound hostility to all people of faith, we have watched with growing alarm the Party’s increasingly repressive treatment of the Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement, referring to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Pompeo said that the Uighurs, a Muslim minority group that mainly resides in Western China, and other minority groups have been subjected to crimes against humanity that have escalated since at least March 2017.
Those alleged crimes include arbitrary imprisonment or detainment of more than 1 million civilians, forced sterilization, torture of detainees, forced labor, and “the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement,” according to the State Department.
The CCP has interned more than 1 million Uighurs in work and reeducation camps across the northwestern part of the country, particularly the Xinjiang region. The camps, which are referred to as “vocational training centers” by the Chinese government, are widely considered to be concentration camps.
Pompeo said on Tuesday that he decided to label the actions committed by China during a “decades-long campaign of repression” as “genocide” after reviewing exhaustive documentation collected by the State Department.
“Beijing’s atrocities in Xinjiang represent an extreme affront to the Uyghurs, the people of China, and civilized people everywhere. We will not remain silent,” he said. “If the Chinese Communist Party is allowed to commit genocide and crimes against humanity against its own people, imagine what it will be emboldened to do to the free world, in the not-so-distant future.”
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced it was halting imports of tomato and cotton products from the Xinjiang region over concerns of enslaved Uighurs being forced into labor.
Xinjiang is a global leader in cotton supplies, and the new blockade from the U.S. government has the potential to cause other countries to reconsider doing business with the region.
Calling China’s actions “morally repugnant,” Pompeo said its policies and practices are designed to systematically discriminate against Uighurs by repressing their freedom to travel, emigrate, worship and attend schools. He also claimed Chinese authorities have conducted forced sterilizations and abortions on Uighur women and have separated Uighur children from their families.
The State Department’s strong statement against China comes just hours before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Wednesday.
In August, Biden’s campaign had released a similar statement, also labeling China’s actions as genocide and stating that the incoming president “stands against it in the strongest terms.”
The Chinese government has repeatedly denied accusations of abuse.