The Trump administration is considering whether to formally label China’s treatment of Uighurs a “genocide,” Politico reported on Tuesday.
A genocide designation by the U.S. government could have political and legal consequences for the country. If the genocide label is approved, it could pressure the U.S. to intervene in some form to counteract the genocide, though not necessarily through military means. The designation would also be sure to further inflame tensions between the U.S. and China that have soared during the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Security Council, State Department, and the Department of Homeland Security are still weighing whether to use the term, Trump administration officials told Politico. The administration could designate China’s treatment of Uighurs as “crimes against humanity” or “ethnic cleansing” if there is not enough support for a formal designation of “genocide.”
A spokesman for the Joe Biden presidential campaign said Biden supports the “genocide” designation, which could influence President Trump’s final decision on the matter.
China has imprisoned over one million Uighurs and other Muslims from the province of Xinjiang in reeducation camps aimed to stamp out detainees’ Islamic faith and indoctrinate them in communist party ideology. White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien has referred to the facilities as “concentration camps,” and reports of torture, rape, and other abuses have emerged from the camps.
China is also implementing a campaign of forced sterilizations and abortions on Uighur women.
“By 2019, Xinjiang planned to subject at least 80 percent of women of childbearing age” in the rural south of Xinjiang “to intrusive birth prevention surgeries (IUDs or sterilizations), with actual shares likely being much higher,” Adrian Zenz, a China studies fellow at the Jamestown Institute, wrote in his study of the sterilization campaign.