US Lawmaker Calls for 'Special Envoy on Uyghur Genocide'

The new position if adopted into law would coordinate the US diplomatic and economic response to China's human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
By Richard Finney
US Lawmaker Calls for 'Special Envoy on Uyghur Genocide' US Congressman and House Foreign Affairs Committee member Chris Smith is shown in a file photo.

A U.S. lawmaker from New Jersey has called for the establishment of a U.S. Special Envoy to address what is increasingly being seen as a Chinese campaign of genocide against the country’s Muslim Uyghur minority group, adding the proposal as an amendment to a bill already under consideration by the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. Congress.

Proposed on June 30 by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the amendment—now adopted by the Committee with strong bipartisan support—would require the U.S. Secretary of State to establish the position to respond to widespread and ongoing human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), the congressman said in a July 1 statement.

“This amendment will have a significant and positive impact on the urgent effort to bring additional scrutiny to the ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party in the Xinjiang Province,” said Smith.

Once established, the Special Envoy would “coordinate diplomatic, political, economic, and security activities pursued by the United States government to address the mass detention of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities,” Smith said in his statement this week.

Other focuses of concern would include the programs of surveillance and police detection now carried out by Chinese authorities in the XUAR and the counterradicalism campaigns used by China’s ruling CCP to justify its policies in the region, Smith said.

Chinese authorities have conducted a campaign of mass incarceration in the XUAR since 2017 during which an estimated 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been locked up in a vast network of internment camps.

Beijing has denied all allegations of abuse of the Uyghurs, saying that the facilities are residential training centers or “re-education camps” that provide vocational training for Uyghurs to discourage religious radicalization and protect the country from terrorism.

But reports by RFA, other media outlets, rights groups, and independent researchers indicate that the detainees are being held against their will and are subjected to political indoctrination and maltreatment, while enduring poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.

Led by Canada, an alliance of 40 countries called on China on June 22 to allow the U.N.’s human rights chief access to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) to look into reported abuses of ethnic Uyghurs, including arbitrary detentions, torture, and forced labor.

The development follows recent moves by legislatures in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Lithuania that determined that China’s policies in the XUAR constitute genocide.

The U.S. government in January designated abuses in the region as part of a campaign of genocide, and a German parliamentary committee last week declared that serious human rights abuses committed against the Uyghurs are crimes against humanity. 

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