WASHINGTON — On his way out the door, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hits China with new sanctions by declaring that China’s policies on Muslims and ethnic minorities in western Xinjiang Province constitute a “genocide.”
Pompeo makes the determination just 24 hours before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. There is no immediate response from the incoming Biden team, although several members have been sympathetic to such a designation in the past. Pompeo’s determination doesn’t come with any immediate repercussions.
Many of those accused of having taken part in repression in Xinjiang are already under US sanctions, and today’s move is the latest in a series of steps the outgoing Trump administration has taken against China.
Five days ago, the administration announced it would halt imports of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang with Customs and Border Protection officials saying they would block products from there suspected of being produced with forced labor.
Xinjiang is a major global supplier of cotton, so the order could have significant effects on international commerce. The Trump administration has already blocked imports from individual companies linked to forced labor in the region, and the US has imposed sanctions on Communist Party officials with prominent roles in the campaign.
China has imprisoned more than 1 million people, including Uighurs and members of other mostly-Muslim ethnic groups, in a vast network of concentration camps, according to US officials and human rights groups. People have been subjected to torture, sterilization and political indoctrination in addition to forced labor as part of an assimilation campaign in a region whose inhabitants are ethnically and culturally distinct from the Han Chinese majority.