Pompeo Handed Biden a Gift on China
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo handed the Biden Administration a great gift. The question now is whether Team Biden is wise enough to accept it. Pompeo declared at the last-minute that the Chinese Communist Party’s atrocities against the Uighurs can be formally characterized as a genocide. This gives President Biden and his team a chance to place our country on the right side of history.
Most Westerners have only a vague idea of who the Uighurs are and the ferocity with which China’s Communist Party is abusing them. China is, of course, more than a country; it is an empire. The eastern part of the country is China proper, but as a colonial power it occupies Manchuria, Tibet, and parts of central Asia. For thousands of years, the Uighurs have lived in central Asia, in a nominally autonomous region that used to be called East Turkestan but the Chinese now call Xinjiang. Communist China annexed the region in 1955, and allowed the Uighurs, Turkish speaking and largely Muslim, to live mostly in peace. That is, until recently. Under Xi Jinping, the Communist Party has launched a massive effort to Sinicize — or acculturate as Chinese — the Uighur people.
The effort is part of a larger pattern that Human Rights Watch calls Xin Jinping’s “broad and sustained offensive on human rights.” His campaign includes everything from harsh media, online, and academic ideological controls to the disappearance and torture of human rights activists; from the strangling of civil liberties in Hong Kong and Tibet to branding of religions as “evil cults.” Not since the Tiananmen Square massacre have conditions in China been so severe. Xi is fully committed to instituting control over every aspect of Chinese citizens’ lives, and ruthlessly stamping out anything that threatens the perfect identification of each man or woman with the Chinese Communist Party’s ideology.
Xinjiang, with its culturally distinctive Uighur population, presents a special threat to Party dominance. The cruelty of the crackdown there — as well as its massive scale — is almost impossible to fathom. Social re-engineering and cultural extermination are its chief aim, and the horrific mechanism of this campaign against the Uighurs is the concentration camp system (officially and coyly called Vocational Education and Training Centers). At least one million men and women, but as many as three million, are now imprisoned under the guise of Communist “re-education.” Rapes, unexplained deaths, interrogations using electric shock — the conditions are gruesome. Some of these “training centers” function as slave labor camps in the production of cotton and textiles sold across the world. One woman recently recounted her experience of the “years-long re-education” that she says killed her soul. Her chilling account deserves to be read.
It is also a brute fact that brainwashing under conditions of isolation and terror is not reserved for adults. Hundreds of thousands of children have been stolen from their parents and sent to “boarding schools” where their language, culture, religion, and natural attachments are ground out of them. And these are just the Uighur children that manage to be born. A prominent component of China’s plan to exterminate the Uighurs is the reduction of their population through forced sterilization, abortion, and forced insertion of contraceptive devices. Whether in a camp or out of one, women are sterilized in order to achieve the plummeting birthrates observed in Xinjiang since 2016. China’s One Child Policy which limited births for decades was recently rolled back in the rest of the country. The considerable harshness of that policy, however, pales in comparison to the violent tactics that have, in contrast, been ramped up in Xinjiang.
Then-Secretary Pompeo made clear in making this declaration of genocide that what is being done to the Uighurs today has not been seen on the world stage since the Holocaust. Cultural annihilation, gulag, slave labor, genocidal sterilization — the very words are frightening. More frightening still is the fact that behind these words are millions of our fellow human beings suffering these things one by one.
The fact is that China’s growing global influence makes countries loath to speak out against the Communist Party’s crimes against humanity. American leadership is needed to turn the tide and encourage other nations to take punitive measures against China, such as the Trump administration’s sanctions against senior Party leaders involved in the atrocities. But this is just a start. President Biden needs to focus his attention like a laser on the human rights catastrophe of our age and land us on the right side of history. Only this can prevent the remorse that is surely in our country’s future if we continue to look the other way.
Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie is a policy advisor for The Catholic Association.