President Joe Biden’s administration is in agreement with the outgoing Trump administration that China is committing genocide against its Uyghur population in Xinjiang.
On his last full day in office, outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had officially declared China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang. During a Senate confirmation hearing that same day, Biden’s pick to replace Pompeo, Anthony Blinken, said he agreed with the assessment authored by Pompeo.
“That would be my judgment as well,” he said. “Forcing men, women and children into concentration camps, trying to in effect re-educate them to be adherents to the Chinese Communist Party, all of that speaks to an effort to commit genocide.”
The opposition to China’s treatment of its Uyghur population is one point of agreement between the Biden and Trump administrations, even after a contentious election cycle. The Biden administration’s stance on China’s abuse of Uyghurs also comes after China has expressed hopes to “restore normalcy” to U.S.-China relations after years of contentions with the U.S. under Trump.
Trump’s administration criticized China’s treatment of the Uyghurs throughout his time in office. In 2018, Pompeo said, “Hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of Uyghurs are held against their will in so-called reeducation camps where they’re forced to endure severe political indoctrination and other awful abuses.”
International experts have estimated as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs are being held by China in internment camps in Xinjiang.
In a statement to Axios in August, the Biden campaign said, “The unspeakable oppression that Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have suffered at the hands of China’s authoritarian government is genocide and Joe Biden stands against it in the strongest terms.”
The Biden campaign statement did criticize Trump over an allegation waged by Trump’s former national security advisor John Bolton, that Trump condoned China’s detention practices against the Uyghur population, a claim Trump has denied. The Biden statement went on to say, “If the Trump administration does indeed choose to call this out for what it is, as Joe Biden already did, the pressing question is what will Donald Trump do to take action. He must also apologize for condoning this horrifying treatment of Uighurs.”
As the Trump administration came to an end on Wednesday, China issued a wave of sanctions against former Trump administration officials, including Pompeo and Bolton. The sanctions came a day after Pompeo issued the declaration China is committing genocide against the Uyghurs.
Responding to the Chinese sanctions against the former Trump administration officials, Biden National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said, “Imposing these sanctions on Inauguration Day is seemingly an attempt to play to partisan divides. Americans of both parties should criticize this unproductive and cynical move. President Biden looks forward to working with leaders in both parties to position America to out-compete China.”