US human rights report calls China’s treatment of Uyghurs ‘genocide’
The US has accused China of committing “genocide and crimes against humanity” against Uyghurs, in a report on human rights that raises concerns about countries from Saudi Arabia to Myanmar.
The state department’s 2020 human rights report called China an “authoritarian state” that was detaining more than 1m Uyghurs in Xinjiang and engaging in abuses ranging from rape, forced sterilisation and coerced abortions to torture and forced labour.
While Antony Blinken, secretary of state, has previously called the repression of Muslim Uyghurs “genocide”, the language in the report marked the first time the Biden administration made an official declaration.
The report comes one week after the US, EU, UK and Canada co-ordinated to put sanctions on Chinese officials over the situation in Xinjiang, which has attracted growing attention as Beijing prepares to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. China retaliated last week by imposing sanctions on citizens from the EU and the three countries.
China has denied widespread allegations about its treatment of the Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang, and has encouraged boycotts against foreign companies such as H&M that have taken a stand.
The report comes as tensions between Washington and Beijing continue to mount, with President Joe Biden taking a much harsher stance towards China than many experts had expected. US and Chinese officials engaged in an extraordinary public spat two weeks ago in their first meeting since Biden took office.
The state department also slammed China over the situation in Hong Kong following the decision earlier this year to impose a national security law on the territory.
It said some of the security-related institutions that were created following the passage of the law had engaged in abuses including police brutality against pro-democracy protesters, arbitrary arrests and a broad crackdown on the media, internet and free speech.
The report did not refer to the coup in Myanmar, which occurred earlier this year, but the US noted “extreme repression of and discrimination” against the minority Rohingya population in Myanmar, along with alleged torture and sexual violence by security forces in Rakhine State.
The state department said there was widespread corruption in the police and judicial systems, and little co-operation between state authorities and humanitarian organisations like the UN, despite thousands of displaced people.
On Saudi Arabia, it referred to reports that Riyadh or its agents had committed unlawful killings, including efforts to kill Saad al-Jabri, a former high-ranking Saudi intelligence official residing in Canada.
The report added that the Saudi government on occasion did not maximally punish people for committing human rights abuses, creating “an environment of impunity”.
Five government agents charged with murdering Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018 had their sentences commuted from death to a maximum of 20 years in prison.
The state department report also mentioned Venezuela, where the US has refused to recognise Nicolás Maduro as the country’s legitimate leader since early 2019.
While extrajudicial killings and torture have continued, the report said, the Maduro regime clamped down further on freedom of expression and the press, and “routinely” blocked signals or shut down privately owned television or radio outlets. It also “essentially criminalised” freedom of speech, the state department said.