As expected, the Chinese government denied it was mistreating its citizens. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying called Pompeo a “doomsday clown” and his declaration “a piece of wastepaper.” The Standing Committee of the Xinjiang Regional People’s Congress claimed the genocide proclamation violated international law and hurt the feelings of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
The Chinese government-owned newspaper Global Times highlighted quotes from videos posted on Weibo (China’s Twitter-like social media platform) by Uyghurs who supposedly refuted Pompeo’s genocide charge. Tusenjan Wusman, a doctor from Hotan prefecture in southern Xinjiang, said, “I really want to ask Pompeo ‘Have you been to Xinjiang? Do you really know what life is like here?’ We live a happy life in the region, and why do you always defame the region?”
In response to that article, Associated Press reporter Dake Kang tweeted a screenshot of instructions purportedly sent to Xinjiang government workers. The instructions asked them to find Uyghur employees with good Chinese skills to record short video clips opposing Pompeo’s remarks and stating their love for the Communist Party, China, and Xinjiang.
The real thoughts of Uyghurs and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang are impossible to gauge, as communications with the area are either cut off or heavily monitored. Locals feel the threat of detainment in the camps hanging over their every word.
The declaration of genocide is a rare move by the U.S. State Department, which last made the determination in 2016 under the Obama administration regarding the atrocities committed by ISIS against Yazidis and other minority groups in Iraq and Syria. Critics called Pompeo’s move politically motivated amid the current tensions between the United States and China. They noted Pompeo hadn’t designated Burma’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims as genocide.
Blinken, during his confirmation hearing in the Senate last week, said the Biden administration would evaluate whether the actions by Burma, also known as Myanmar, constituted genocide.
According to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide—which China has ratified—“genocide” is defined as trying to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group by any of these methods: killing its members, causing serious bodily or mental harm, preventing births, inflicting destructive conditions of life on the group, or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Pompeo stated in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that key to his determination was the Chinese government’s campaign to decrease births in the region through forced abortion and sterilization. Pompeo also pointed to the more than 1 million people in internment camps in Xinjiang where survivors say torture, sexual abuse, forced labor, and unexplained deaths occurred.