The United States this week renewed its determination that human rights abuses amounting to genocide were taking place against ethnic minorities in northwestern China, while Beijing countered the claim with its own report into the “state of democracy” in America.
Predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other minorities in the Xinjiang region have been swept up in a yearslong crackdown China says is aimed at counterterrorism and deradicalization. Rights groups argue Beijing’s systematic mistreatment of ethnic minorities throughout the country targets cultural and religious erasure.
Ongoing rights violations in Xinjiang last year included “the arbitrary imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than 1 million civilians,” said the report published Monday by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Since 2017, detainees have also been put through “reeducation training” as part of the Chinese government’s campaign of ideological indoctrination.
Uyghur women were subjected to “forced sterilization, coerced abortions, and more restrictive application of the country’s birth control policies,” the report said, as well as “rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence.”
China’s repressive policies in Xinjiang were the subject of a landmark report by the United Nations Human Rights Office last year. One of the body’s special rapporteurs separately concluded that stated-backed forced labor schemes in Xinjiang and Tibet pointed to signs of modern slavery.
The State Department produces annual country reports that inform policymakers in Washington. A lack of progress at the U.N. forced American lawmakers to take unilateral action and draft the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to ban the import of products from Xinjiang.
Earlier this month, a U.S. official told Newsweek she was “especially alarmed” by China’s placement of 1 million Tibetan children in a residential school system, which Beijing said was part of a broader poverty alleviation program.
Other “significant human rights issues” included forced disappearances by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention conditions; transnational repression against individuals in other countries; and “punishment of family members for offenses allegedly committed by an individual,” it said.
China anticipated the March 20 report. On the same day, its foreign ministry released a 6,500-word assessment of American democracy, which argued its rights record shouldn’t be scrutinized, especially by the U.S. government. Since early February, Beijing has published separate reports about the U.S. drug crisis, gun violence, wealth gap and political bullying.
The State Department’s report was “fraught with political lies and ideological prejudice,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Tuesday. “Since the U.S. enjoys finding fault with other countries so much, we thought it might be helpful to remove the facade of American democracy for the rest of the world.”
“What they reveal is an American democracy in chaos at home and a trail of havoc and disasters left behind as the U.S. peddled and imposed its democracy around the globe,” said Wang.
The bipartisan House select committee on China, which was created last month, is holding its second public hearing at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, titled “The Chinese Communist Party’s Ongoing Uyghur Genocide.”
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