Opinion: U.S. sanctions for the Uyghur genocide are hurting China. But they aren’t enough.

Opinion: U.S. sanctions for the Uyghur genocide are hurting China. But they aren’t enough.

he Post’s View
A live image of China's President Xi Jinping is seen on a screen during the second plenary session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 8.

Opinion by Editorial BoardMarch 14, 2021 at 2:49 p.m. EDT

IN A backhanded way, China has just let the world know that there are effective measures that can be taken in response to the campaign of genocide it is conducting against Uyghurs and other Muslims in its Xinjiang region. Last week, the foreign ministry announced that “many companies and residents in Xinjiang suffered heavy losses” as a result of a U.S. ban on imports of cotton produced there. Beijing blamed the measure on Adrian Zenz, a dogged German researcher who has exposed many of the crimes committed against the Uyghurs, including the forced labor of hundreds of thousands compelled to pick cotton by hand.

According to reports in the state media, a number of companies in Xinjiang are suing Mr. Zenz for damages in a local court. That’s one more example of how China now seeks to silence its critics abroad, as well as at home. In the likely event there is a judgment against Mr. Zenz, he could be dragged into legal proceedings if the companies try to induce U.S. or European courts to enforce it. But the scholar’s response was sanguine: “It is the first admission that they really are suffering major economic losses,” he told The Post. “Suing an academic — there is an element of desperation in there.”

Mr. Zenz is probably right, considering that the United States imported $9 billion worth of cotton from China in the past year, and 87 percent of the country’s production originates in Xinjiang. Still, the response of the United States and other democracies has not been nearly equal to the immense scale of the crimes against the Uyghurs. That is made clear in a new report by a large group of experts convened by New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy, a Washington think tank. The study, which examines China’s conduct in the context of the 1948 Genocide Convention, convincingly argues that President Xi Jinping “set in motion . . . [a] comprehensive state policy and practice” with “the intent to destroy the Uyghurs as a group.”

The Genocide Convention defines five acts as genocide; a state that commits any of them with the “intent to destroy” a group is guilty under the treaty. The report of the expert group, which assembled thousands of pages of evidence, found that China was guilty of all five: killing Uyghurs; causing them serious bodily or mental harm; deliberately inflicting conditions calculated to bring about their physical destruction; imposing measures to prevent births; and forcibly transferring their children to the custody of others. As for intent, the report documents how officials “described Uyghurs with dehumanizing terms and repeatedly likened the mass internment of Uyghurs to ‘eradicating tumors.’ ”

In January, the State Department under the departing Trump administration also found China guilty of genocide, and President Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has confirmed that judgment. That ought to mandate measures going beyond the ban on cotton and tomato imports and sanctions applied to a few officials. Mr. Zenz has called for Congress to pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would block all imports from Xinjiang unless there is proof they were not tied to forced labor. Beyond that, the Biden administration and other democracies must take on the question of whether to attend the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. To do so when the Xi regime is actively seeking to destroy a group of more than 12 million people would be unconscionable.