A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has introduced legislation to declare that China is committing genocide against Uyghurs and other mainly Muslim ethnic groups in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.
The resolution would hold China accountable under the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Senator Jeff Merkley (Democrat-Oregon) said in a news release on October 27.
“China’s assault on Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups -- escalating surveillance, imprisonment, torture, and forced 'reeducation camps' -- is genocide, pure and simple,” said Merkley. “America can’t stand silent.”
The resolution was introduced by Merkley along with co-sponsors Senators John Cornyn (Republican-Texas), Robert Menendez (Democrat-New Jersey), James Risch (Republican-Idaho), Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida), and Ben Cardin (Democrat-Maryland).
The resolution joins others that have been introduced in the U.S. Senate over the treatment of Uyghurs, including one meant to stop goods made by forced labor from entering the U.S. market.
The latest resolution, which also would begin the process to coordinate an international response to bring abuses against the Uyghurs to a halt, is unlikely to move immediately because the Senate is out of session until after next week's presidential election.
The text of the resolution says China's campaign against Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region “constitutes genocide."
Cornyn said in a statement that the Chinese government for too long has carried out "a despicable campaign of genocide against millions of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims."
He added that the resolution “recognizes these crimes for what they are and is the first step toward holding China accountable for their monstrous actions."
Beijing is accused of placing more than 1 million Uyghurs and members of other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in internment camps and prisons where, since early 2017, they have been physically abused, subjected to ideological discipline, and forced to denounce their religion and language.
China says the camps are reeducation and training centers needed to combat separatist terrorism and extremism.
The United States in July imposed sanctions on a Chinese government entity and current or former Communist Party officials for their alleged involvement in “serious rights abuses” against Uyghurs, but stopped just short of declaring genocide.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin vowed at the time to use “the full breadth” of U.S. financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in an interview on October 27 with the news site The Print on a visit to India, said that China's actions "remind us of what happened in the 1930s in Germany."
The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has called China's actions genocide and vowed to have a tougher response than the Trump administration.
The UN convention on genocide, drafted in the aftermath of the Holocaust, obligates states to prevent and punish the "odious scourge."
It defines genocide to include actions such as killing as well as preventing births "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group."
Research published on June 29 by China expert Adrian Zenz said China is forcing women to be sterilized or use contraceptive devices in an attempt to limit the population of Uyghurs.
The report said China’s policies may amount to slow-motion demographic “genocide.”