A new Pew Research Center report found that nine out of 10 Americans (89 percent) view China as either a competitor or an enemy instead of a partner. Significantly, 70 percent of respondents said the United States should promote human rights in China, even if it harms economic relations with the second-largest economy in the world.
While the opinions of more and more Americans toward China continue to sour, the Biden administration should take bold and meaningful action to address Beijing’s atrocious human rights abuses.
Muddying the waters, unfortunately, officials in the Biden administration have made inconsistent comments about China’s human rights record. During his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s determination that genocide and crimes against humanity are occurring in China. Yet, as United Nations Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield later suggested, the State Department is now reviewing Pompeo’s determination.
Since then, the administration has also made several public statements confirming that “what has taken place in Xinjiang was genocide.” Despite the repeated mysterious usage of the past tense (“genocide was occurring”), the Biden administration now rightly affirms that Beijing’s actions to prevent Uighur births via forced sterilization and abortion are genocidal.
Emerging reports indicate conditions for religious and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang are almost unimaginable. Tursunay Ziawudun, a survivor of the “re-education” camps where more than one million Uighurs are arbitrarily detained, has come forward with other women to expose widespread rapes within those camps. She told the BBC, “You can’t tell anyone what happened, you can only lie down quietly. It is designed to destroy everyone’s spirit.”
This follows last summer’s disturbing reports that exposed Beijing’s concerted program of forced sterilization and abortion. Women found to be pregnant in the camps face mandatory abortions. Throughout the province of Xinjiang, things are not much better.
When police found WhatsApp on Gulzia Mogdin’s phone (a punishable offense), they took her to the hospital, where they discovered she was pregnant with her third child. She was only visiting from Kazakhstan, but authorities required her to have an abortion and threatened to detain her and her brother if she resisted. She eventually returned to Kazakhstan, where she told the Associated Press, “I cannot sleep. It’s terribly unfair.”
Now it is incumbent upon the Biden administration to act. A new report by Family Research Council offers the Biden administration four courses of action to do just that.
First, to enforce consequences on Beijing for its abuses, President Biden should encourage Congress to pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, and then he should sign it. This will prohibit goods manufactured by forced labor in Xinjiang from being imported into the United States, thereby attaching an economic price tag to China’s human rights abuses.
Second, to prevent U.S. complicity in the genocide, the Biden administration should conduct a thorough review of the U.N. Population Fund’s funding in China to ensure that U.S. support does not contribute to coerced sterilizations there. Due to its possible link to coerced abortions in China, U.S. support for the UNFPA was withdrawn. Now that genocide is occurring through birth prevention measures, the United States must ensure funds are not used — even indirectly — to support coerced abortions against Uighur women.
Third, the U.S. government should apply targeted sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity. The Global Magnitsky Act, for instance, provides for substantial punishments for individuals guilty of international human rights violations.
Lastly, as the atrocities in Xinjiang gain more international attention, as part of the effort to build global momentum to address the issue, Biden administration diplomats should encourage like-minded countries to join the United States in condemning China’s actions as genocide.
The U.S. determination that genocide is ongoing in China is itself a call to action. When the United States ratified the 1948 Genocide Convention, it committed to prevent and punish genocide. The U.S. government should do its utmost to live up to humanity’s simple and profound promise following the Holocaust: “Never Again.”