China rejects Uighur genocide charge by US

A charge by the United States that China's treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang region amounted to "genocide and crimes against humanity" was rejected yesterday by Beijing, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying calling it "slander" based on "false information fabricated by anti-China extremists".

The US' determination came in an annual human rights report published on Tuesday that reiterated one first made by the Trump administration.

"No national organisation or individual has the right to arbitrarily convict other countries as guilty of genocide," Ms Hua said at a regular press conference. "Based on the lies and false information of individual anti-China forces, the United States presumptuously asserted that there is genocide in Xinjiang, China. This is a ridiculous lie of the century, a big lie, a great insult and a violation of the Chinese people."

The issue of human rights abuses in Xinjiang is one of the key points of contention between China and the US. Washington last week announced sanctions in coordination with other Western nations, which were met with retaliatory sanctions from Beijing and boycotts by Chinese consumers.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters that China's abuses are part of a trend of worsening human rights across the world. He also highlighted attacks on political dissidents in Russia and other atrocities in Belarus, Yemen, Ethiopia, Syria and Myanmar.

"President (Joe) Biden is committed to putting human rights back in the centre of the American foreign policy," said Mr Blinken at the press event.

He acknowledged America's own faults, including systemic racism, but said the way the US confronts its own challenges at home gives it "greater legitimacy in advocating for human rights abroad".

China has increasingly taken to criticising America - and other Western nations - on its human rights records, in response to international disapproval of the situation in Xinjiang and the erosion of democracy in Hong Kong.

Countering pre-emptively on Tuesday, Mr Blinken said: "We will hear from some countries, as we do every year, that we have no right to criticise them because we have our own challenges to deal with. Well, we know we have work to do at home."

He said America did not sweep its problems under the carpet but dealt with them "with full transparency", and it was this ability and willingness to confront its shortcomings that differentiated its democracy from autocracies.

Ms Hua said in her lengthy rebuttal that China's ethnic minority policies were fairer than those in America, which had conducted its own genocide on Native Americans and trafficked and enslaved Africans.

Citing the Iraq war, she said America also fabricated lies so it could launch military invasions of other sovereign countries.

"The so-called genocide is a slander on China's ethnic policies and on Xinjiang's development achievements. China is a unified multi-ethnic country."

The US State Department report is a yearly publication that assesses the human rights situations in some 200 states and territories. This year's report highlighted the detention of more than one million Uighurs and other Muslims in China "in extrajudicial internment camps", and another two million people going through daytime-only "re-education" training.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2021, with the headline 'China rejects Uighur genocide charge by US'. Subscribe