US Lawmakers Urge Trump Administration Officials to Condemn Forced Sterilizations in China’s Xinjiang

By Roseanne Gerin
xinjiang-uyghur-woman-holding-child-hotan-apr15-2015.jpg A Uyghur woman holds her baby at a market in Hotan, northwestern China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, in a file photo.

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to respond to strong evidence of the forced sterilization of Uyghur Muslims and ethnic Kazakhs in northwest China’s Xinjiang region by condemning the population control policy and imposing sanctions on Chinese officials responsible.

The letter dated July 2 was sent by Representative James P. McGovern (D-Mass.) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the chairman and cochair of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC).

They and 76 other members of the House and Senate who signed the letter asked the Trump administration officials to make a determination as to whether the Chinese government is responsible for perpetrating atrocity crimes, including genocide, against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim ethnic minorities.

“These human rights abuses demand a response from the United States as well as the international community because evidence strongly indicates that the Chinese government is intentionally working to destroy and essentially wipe out Uyghur families, culture, and religious adherence, and encouraging violence against women,” the letter said.

“Therefore, we urge you not only to condemn this heinous policy, but also to sanction those Chinese officials responsible for these crimes,” it said.

The letter was issued in response to a June 29 report about a dramatic increase in recent years in the number of forced sterilizations and abortions targeting Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), which may amount to a government-led campaign of genocide under United Nations definitions.

The population control measures include fines on Uyghur women with three or more children, required pregnancy tests and examinations, and the forced implantation of intrauterine devices or sterilization surgery, the report by German researcher Adrian Zenz said.

An uptick in the forced population control policies occurred in tandem with China’s campaign of mass incarceration of Uyghurs launched in the region in April 2017.

Women who refuse to undergo the procedures are detained in a network of internment camps, believed to hold up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.

The letter asks the Trump administration officials to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act on individuals or entities complicit in the implementation of the policy, including government officials or bodies working with the Ministry of Health or other ministries.

The U.S. law, named after a Russian corruption whistleblower who died in prison, calls for the seizure of assets and a U.S. travel ban for foreign officials who violate human rights.

“Chinese authorities responsible for forced sterilizations and other coercive measures targeting Uyghur women should not benefit from access to the United States or our financial systems,” the letter said.

Uyghur-American attorney Nury Turkel, a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom,said that the “fastest punitive measure that can be taken among them will be under the Global Magnitsky sanction regime.”

The U.S. has used this sanction only on one Chinese official so far,” he added.

In June, U.S. President Donald Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 which had passed almost unanimously in both houses of Congress in late May.

The legislation highlights arbitrary incarceration, forced labor, and other rights abuses in the XUAR and provides for sanctions against Chinese officials deemed responsible for them under the Magnitsky Act, although such measures have not yet been taken.

One of the most critical clauses in the newly signed Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act mandates the administration to implement the Magnitsky sanctions,” Turkel said. In the past, it’s been up to the president to apply it or not when he deems it right or proper to apply it, but now he’s obligated to apply it.

The letter also asks Pompeo and Mnuchin to work with U.S. allies and partners to hold a U.N. Security Council briefing and appoint a special rapporteur on the situation in the XUAR.


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