China is committing genocide in its repression of the Uighurs, Christians, and other mainly Muslim peoples, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
President Joe Biden’s choice for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, instead of holding China accountable, are looking the other way, as China requested at The World Health Organization, where China was the guest speaker.
Rights groups believe that China detained millions Uighurs over the past few years in what the state defines as “re-education camps”.
BBC investigations suggest that Uighurs are being used as forced labour.
Tensions with China have been a defining feature of Donald Trump’s term, from trade policies to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state,” Mr Pompeo said in a statement on Monday, his last day in office as part of Donald Trump’s administration.
China reacted angrily, dismissing the statement as “outrageous lies”.
“We see this so-called determination as a piece of waste paper,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying. “We hope the new US administration can have their own reasonable and cool-minded judgment of Xinjiang issues.”
While the Pompeo statement puts pressure on China, it does not automatically introduce any fresh penalties.
Mr Blinken was asked at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday if he agreed with Mr Pompeo’s announcement, to which he answered: “That would be my judgment as well.”
He added: “On the Uighurs I think we’re very much in agreement. And the forcing of men, women and children into concentration camps, trying to, in effect, re-educate them to be adherents to the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party, all of that speaks to an effort to commit genocide.”
Mr Biden’s team made a similar argument last August, saying the Uighurs had suffered “unspeakable oppression… at the hands of China’s authoritarian government”.