US Congress report on China says rights situation grim, signalling more legislation to come

A new report notes the Chinese government's efficient use of advanced technology and information to control and suppress people. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - A high-powered US congressional commission, in a grim 323-page report, detailed a worsening human rights situation in China and said the country may be committing crimes against humanity in Xinjiang province.

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China's (CECC) work underpins much of the legislation on China that Congress has passed, including targeting Chinese officials involved in the repression of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet. More legislation is expected this year.

After China's bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, a "costly and elaborate authoritarian system designed to intimidate, censor, and even imprison Chinese citizens for exercising their fundamental human rights" had been put in place, the CECC says.

And after Mr Xi Jinping became Chinese Communist Party general secretary in 2012, and President in 2013, "the space for human rights advocacy and political reform narrowed further as the Chinese government and Party exerted a tighter grip over governance, law enforcement, and the judiciary", the report says.

Under President Xi's tenure, during its 2019 reporting year, the CECC found that "the human rights situation has worsened and the rule of law continued to deteriorate, as the Chinese government and Party increasingly used regulations and laws to assert social and political control".

A part of the CECC's mandate is the inclusion of recommendations for legislative and executive action. It holds frequent hearings, and last year had a town hall event with Tibetans in New York.

The 2019 report released on Wednesday morning (Jan 8) in Washington, noted the Chinese government's efficient use of advanced technology and information to control and suppress people.

Nowhere was this more of a concern than in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), where "the Commission believes Chinese authorities may be committing crimes against humanity against the Uighur people and other Turkic Muslims".

"Over the past year, Chinese authorities have expanded a system of extrajudicial mass internment camps in the XUAR," the report says.

"Although the true number of detainees has not been publicly reported, experts estimate one million or more Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Hui, and others currently are or have been detained and subjected to abuse and forced labour in mass internment," it says.

"Human rights and rule of law conditions in China have continued to worsen this past year," said CECC co-chairs, Representative James McGovern and Senator Marco Rubio.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.