The State Department begins reviewing Xinjiang’s genocide rule

In front of a “training center for professional skills” in Dabancheng, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, September 4, 2018 (Thomas Peter / Reuters)

Foreign policy reports that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched an official review to determine whether the Chinese Communist Party’s actions in Xinjiang constitute genocide.

That took a long time. Back in August, Politico reported that the Trump administration could carry out such a review process. Although administrative officials have been spoken out about the plight of the Uyghurs, it has been a long time coming to a possible determination of the atrocities. It is a difficult legal case, especially because it requires a statement of what the perpetrators’ actual intent is. Needless to say, Beijing has not abandoned the systematic elimination of the Uighur people – in fact, it is running a global disinformation campaign to deny its crimes.

As the Foreign Policy Article notes, the initiation of this review follows increased pressure from Congress for a determination of the atrocities. Legislators have urged the administration to make a decision and have passed resolutions requiring such a determination. The collective law in question – the fate of which is still unclear – contained a provision according to which the State Department had to take a decision within 90 days. With this latest news, it seems that this part of the legislation is no longer necessary. In contrast to the procedure required for this measure, however, the procedure notified today is of indefinite length and could possibly extend to the Biden administration. (For what it’s worth, Biden described the situation as genocide in a statement made during the campaign, so there’s likely to be a remarkable continuity of policy between administrations.)

Here is the gist of the legal argument for the state team from an article I wrote about it in September:

However, in addition to establishing the persecution of the acts listed in the convention, State Department attorneys must prove that the CCP is addressing “members of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group” and that this orientation reflects an intention to destroy the Uyghurs . completely or partially. “The Uighurs are clearly an ethnic group that is protected under the Genocide Convention. Intention is the harder part.

How can the State Department claim that CCP officials acted with intent to destroy the Uighur people? The presence of coordinated government efforts such as birth control and the separation of Uyghur children from their parents goes a long way in demonstrating this intent. And even when representatives of the Chinese government claimed that the Uyghurs were a significant threat to terrorism, they were extremely transparent about their ultimate goal. “Break your lineage, break your roots, break your connections and break your ancestry,” a CCP official wrote in a 2019 article. However, if such transparent letters of intent seem too scant, the State Department might claim that the CCP’s attempt at cultural genocide itself demonstrates the intent of “physical” genocide against members of the group, a legal argument that was partly dissented in a case before the UN War Crimes Tribunal in Yugoslavia.

Hopefully, calling the situation in Xinjiang genocide will put more pressure on the international response. It’s just the truest description.

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