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The U.S. accused China of carrying out an ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in an annual human rights report released on Tuesday.

File photo: U.S. declares China’s actions against Muslim Uighurs in the western Xinjiang region as “genocide” President Elect Joe Biden called Xi a “thug” and his presidential campaign has referred to the crackdown on the Muslim Uighur (UYGHUR) minority in China as a “genocide”. Photographer: Tim Rue/Corbis/Getty

Why it matters: Introducing the report, Secretary of State Tony Blinken said President Biden would put human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy in dealing with friends and foes alike. He also announced that an effort to redefine human rights by his predecessor, Mike Pompeo, would be disbanded.

  • Pompeo’s “Commission on Unalienable Rights” had elevated values like religious freedom and over others, like LGBTQ and reproductive rights. Blinken said the Biden administration would “repudiate” such “unbalanced statements.”
  • He also acknowledged that the U.S. had “work to do at home” on human rights, including in combating systemic racism, but would face those challenges “in the daylight,” unlike autocratic countries.

What they’re saying: Blinken highlighted human rights violations last year by the governments of Russia, Uganda, Venezuela and Belarus, as well as abuses by the warring parties in Ethiopia and Yemen.

  • “The trendlines on human rights continue to move in a negative direction… in every region of the world,” Blinken said.

The report finds that more than one million mainly Muslim Uyghurs were held in detention camps in China’s Xinjiang region, with some subjected to forced sterilization, rape, forced labor and torture. 

  • Another two million Uyghurs were “subjected to daytime-only ‘re-education training,’” according to the report.
  • The report notes that the camps were expanded in 2020, and the abuses are ongoing.

Of note: The Trump administration, in its final days in office, declared China’s actions against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang a “genocide.”

Read the full US State Dept report

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