China has dismissed a declaration by the United States that Beijing is guilty of genocide against ethnic Uyghurs and other minorities saying the designation "is a piece of wastepaper."
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a daily briefing in Beijing on January 21 that allegations of abuse against Muslim minority groups in China's Xinjiang region had "never happened in the past, [are] not happening now, and will never happen in China."
Her comments came after U.S. outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that China is committing "genocide and crimes against humanity" against ethnic Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim indigenous people in the Xinjiang region.
"I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs” under the “direction and control” of the Chinese Communist Party, Pompeo said in the statement issued on January 19, a day before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
The UN has estimated that at least 1 million ethnic Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim indigenous people in Xinjiang have been detained in what it described as "counterextremism centers" in the region.
The UN has also said that millions more have been forced into internment camps, though Beijing insists that the facilities are "vocational education centers" aimed at helping people steer clear of terrorism and allowing them to be reintegrated into society.
Rights defenders also have accused China of forcing hundreds of thousands of people into labor camps under a “coercive” scheme targeting ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang -- a claim rejected by Beijing.
In an indication that U.S. policy toward Beijing's human rights record is unlikely to change with a new administration in the White House, Biden's secretary of state nominee, Antony Blinken, on January 19 said he supported Pompeo’s decision.
“Forcing men, women, and children into concentration camps, trying to in effect reeducate them to be adherents to the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party. All of that speaks to an effort to commit genocide,” Blinken said during his Senate confirmation hearing.
Since last year, the United States has ramped up pressure on Beijing, imposing sanctions on officials and companies for their activities in Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong, and the South China Sea.