The State Department released its annual human rights report Tuesday that notably called out China for committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in its northwestern Xinjiang region.
The report, required annually by law, detailed the human rights situation last year in nearly 200 countries. It noted that in China, “government authorities committed genocide against Uyghurs” along with “crimes against humanity including imprisonment, torture, enforced sterilization, and persecution.”
Honored to release the 45th annual Human Rights Report. It demonstrates that human rights, transparency and accountability are at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy. We acknowledge the work ahead and expect all nations to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. #HRR2020 pic.twitter.com/G7BO475AoG
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) March 30, 2021
Current estimates indicate China has detained at least one million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in reeducation camps, according to Axios. The report also mentioned there were “an additional two million subjected to daytime-only ‘re-education’ training,” new information not included in last year’s report.
The report’s use of “genocide” rhetoric suggests the Biden administration intends to use more assertive language to describe the Chinese government’s actions in Xinjiang, according to Reuters.
Blinken said during his confirmation hearing in January he agreed with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s determination that China was committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang. During the final days of the Trump administration, the U.S. became the first nation to call China’s actions in the region a genocide. (RELATED: Why Do So Few US Companies With Business In China Speak Out About Genocide? Look What’s Happening To H&M)
The report also called out China for arresting citizen journalists during the initial COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan and censoring critics who strayed from Beijing’s official narrative about the pandemic.
Another country mentioned in the report was Russia, where opposition leader Alexei Navalny was reportedly sent to a prison camp in late February. The State Department also mentioned humanitarian crises and a deteriorating human rights situation in countries like Syria and Venezuela.
“The trend lines on human rights continue to move in the wrong direction,” Blinken told reporters Tuesday during a press conference, according to Reuters.
He added that some governments had used the COVID-19 pandemic as a “pretext to restrict rights and consolidate authoritarian rule.”