The below article was published by Forbes, photo credit: Associated Press
Secretary of State Antony Blinken staunchly rebuked China on Sunday for acts of genocide against Muslim Uyghurs in its Xinjiang region, saying the United States stands “resolutely against” the nation’s “egregious” human rights violations and urging U.S. companies to ensure they’re not conducting business in the region as a slew of companies face backlash for alleged ties to its forced labor.
Speaking to NBC News’ Meet the Press, Blinken doubled-down on comments during his January confirmation hearing in which he called the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang “an effort to commit genocide,” calling it “exactly the right description.”
Blinken also called on governments around the world, including the United States, to take “concrete actions” to ensure that no companies are providing China with products or services that facilitate its repression of the Uyghur population.
“We need to be looking at products that are made in that part of China to make sure that they’re not coming here,” Blinken said, alluding to (but not specifically referencing) the slew of apparel companies that have faced backlash for allegedly sourcing materials like cotton from Xinjiang.
Asked whether boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing was on the table, Blinken said the U.S. is “not there yet” and that a decision to do so one year out would be “premature,” though he did say the State Department is focused on talking and consulting with its allies about their concerns.
The State Secretary also blasted China for its lack of transparency during the pandemic’s early days, saying the country failed to give international health experts real-time access to information about the virus’ spread and urging the country to help put in place a stronger global health security system to revisit the origins of Covid-19.
The Chinese government has adamantly denied that it’s committing human rights violations in Xinjiang, with China’s Foreign Ministry in late March calling the allegations “rumors and disinformation” and asking foreign governments to stop interfering in China’s internal affairs.
Last month, an independent probe into the allegations of genocide in Xinjiang by a nonpartisan Washington think tank found that there is “clear and convincing” evidence that the Chinese government is violating the United Nations’ Genocide Convention with an “intent to destroy” the mostly Muslim Uyghur population. “Uighurs are suffering from systematic torture and cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment,” the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy said in its report, concluding that, among other acts of genocide, China has been killing Uyghurs and causing them serious bodily or mental harm.
Companies and federal governments have been in the middle of a bitter firestorm concerning their alleged ties to the Xinjiang autonomous region. Shares of Nike and H&M have plunged 6% and 8%, respectively, and shed at least $20 billion in market value since mid-March amid claims that the apparel-makers have been sourcing cotton from the region. Both companies fiercely denied the allegations, prompting calls for boycotts from Chinese officials. Luxury brands have also faced backlash, with British designer Burberry losing out on marketing contracts for failing to condemn the acts of genocide in Xinjiang.
“We need to be able to bring the world together in speaking with one voice in condemning what has taken place and what continues to take place… and we also have to make sure that we are dealing with all of our interests,” Blinken said Sunday. “We have to be able to deal with China on areas where those interests are implicated and require working with China, even as we stand resolutely against egregious violations of human rights or in this case, acts of genocide.”
The Beijing Winter Olympics, set to take place in February 2022. As calls heighten for the United States and its allies to boycott the event, the State Department has reportedly denied that it’s considering doing so. On Wednesday, a Chinese official warned against a boycott, saying that “the politicization of sports will damage the spirit of the Olympic Charter and the interests of athletes from all countries… The international community including the U.S. Olympic Committee will not accept it.”