“Imposing these sanctions on Inauguration Day is seemingly an attempt to play to partisan divides,” Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for President Biden’s National Security Council, told Reuters on Wednesday. “President Biden looks forward to working with leaders in both parties to position America to out-compete China.”
China responded by criticizing the outgoing administration, and calling for healing and better relations between the two countries — even using a line from Biden’s inauguration speech.
“I believe if both countries work together, better angels in the U.S.-China relations could defeat evil forces,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press briefing on Thursday.
In his speech emphasizing the need for unity to triumph over division, Biden on Wednesday said: “Through struggle, sacrifice and setbacks, our better angels have always prevailed,” — a phrase borrowed from Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 inaugural address.
The rhetorical exchange follows four years of worsened U.S.-China relations, with Trump and members of his team blaming the Covid-19 pandemic on China, using racist terms to describe the virus and criticizing Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong protesters and its Uighur Muslim minority.
During this time, the countries — the world’s two largest economies — also became locked in a damaging trade war.
However, while it has signaled that it will maintain pressure on Beijing, Biden’s team is widely expected to take a more traditional, diplomatic and multilateral approach than Trump’s did.
China placed sanctions on 28 Trump officials on Wednesday, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro and Alex Azar, the Health and Human Services Secretary. The measures bar travel to Hong Kong, Macao or mainland China, and restrict any organizations they run from doing business there, according to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry.
Biden’s choice to succeed Pompeo, Antony Blinken, said Tuesday he agreed with Pompeo’s assessment. He told his Senate confirmation hearing there was “no doubt” China posed the most significant challenge to the United States of any nation.
The executive order from former President Trump barred Americans from investing in public companies the US government says has links with the Chinese military.
Incoming president Joe Biden has already started overturning some of Mr Trump’s executive orders although its is unclear if he will address the many that have concerned Chinese companies.
The NYSE agreed to delist all three on 31 December, but within days it reversed the decision based on “further consultation” with regulatory authorities.
But that reversal was short lived, with the NYSE announcing just days later that it would press ahead with its initial decision to delist based on “new specific guidance” from the US Treasury Department.
Stock market index providers MSCI, FTSE Russell and S&P Dow Jones Indices all removed the telecoms firms from benchmarks this month, wiping a combined $5.6bn (£4.1bn) off the value of their Hong Kong-traded shares.
The three companies earn all of their revenue in China and have no significant presence in the US.
Like many other large Chinese companies, they have a dual listing in the US and Hong Kong.
There are currently more than 200 Chinese companies listed on US stock markets with a total market capitalization of $2.2tn (£1.6tn).
Shares of all three companies edged slightly lower on the Hong Kong stock exchange on Thursday.
California WeChat users claim China surveillance in lawsuit
California WeChat users sued its parent company Tencent on Wednesday, saying the mobile app is used for spying on and censoring users for the Chinese government.
US-based nonprofit Citizen Power Initiatives for China (CPIFC) filed the suit in Silicon Valley, joined by a half-dozen California residents in urging a state court to order Tencent to change its ways and pay damages.
“As the global erosion of democratic values shows little sign of relenting, this lawsuit is part of our attempt to slow that erosion, and to perhaps help turn the tide, by relying on the rule of law,” CPIFC president Yang Jianli said in a release.
“Democracy depends on being able to communicate free of politically motivated censorship, and hopefully this lawsuit will help Chinese-speaking Californians, who make up so much of the Chinese diaspora, do just that.”
Tencent’s relationship with the Chinese government enables it to keep competition out of the market while honing its algorithm to better censor or mine user data, the suit argued.
“There is no reasonable alternative to WeChat for anyone wishing to maintain regular contact with the Chinese-speaking world,” the suit contended.
California WeChat users and others “sacrifice a panoply of speech, privacy, and other rights as a condition of using WeChat,” according to the suit.
CPIFC described itself as a US-based nonprofit encouraging a transition to democracy in China.
“For all that a WeChat user can do on the WeChat platform, what they cannot readily do – including in California – is send messages perceived as critical of the Party-state,” the lawsuit contended.
“Such messages tend to be blocked, censored, deleted, and can lead to the blocking, suspension, or deletion of the user’s account.”
Comments made on WeChat by users in California to family members in China have led to visits from security agents in that country, according to the lawsuit.
Tencent could not be reached for comment.
Before leaving office this month, former US President Donald Trump ordered a ban on Alipay, WeChat Pay and other apps linked to Chinese companies, saying they could route user information to the government in Beijing.
The executive order is to take effect in February, barring reversal by President Joe Biden.
Biden administration calls China sanctions on Trump officials ‘unproductive and cynical’
By Michael Martina
(Reuters) – China’s move to sanction former Trump administration officials was “unproductive and cynical”, a spokeswoman for President Joe Biden’s National Security Council said on Wednesday, urging Americans from both parties to condemn the action.
Around the time Biden was sworn in as president on Wednesday China announced sanctions against “lying and cheating” outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and 27 other top officials under former President Donald Trump, a striking repudiation of its relationship with Washington under Trump.
China’s foreign ministry said Pompeo and the others had “planned, promoted and executed” moves that had interfered in its internal affairs. It banned the ex-officials and immediate family members from entering China, and restricted companies associated with them from doing business in the country.
“Imposing these sanctions on Inauguration Day is seemingly an attempt to play to partisan divides,” Biden’s National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement to Reuters.
“Americans of both parties should criticize this unproductive and cynical move. President Biden looks forward to working with leaders in both parties to position America to out-compete China,” Horne said.
Pompeo, who unleashed a barrage of measures against China in his final weeks in office, declared on Tuesday that China had committed “genocide and crimes against humanity” against Uighur Muslims.
“This so-called determination by Pompeo is nothing but paper,” a Chinese foreign Ministery spokesperson said in response. “This U.S. politician is notorious for lying and cheating, is making himself a laughing stock and a clown.”
China has repeatedly rejected accusations of abuse in its Xinjiang region, where a United Nations panel has said at least 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims had been detained in camps.
Biden’s choice to succeed Pompeo, Antony Blinken, said on Tuesday he agreed with Pompeo’s assessment.
He told his Senate confirmation hearing there was “no doubt” China posed the most significant challenge to the United States of any nation, and that he believed there was a very strong foundation to build a bipartisan U.S. policy to stand up to Beijing.
(Reporting by Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Tom Hogue and Raju Gopalakrishnan)
Twitter says it locked account of China’s U.S. embassy over Xinjiang-related tweet
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Twitter has locked the account of China’s U.S. embassy for a tweet that defended China’s policies in the Xinjiang region, which the U.S. social media platform said violated the firm’s policy against “dehumanization”.
The Chinese Embassy account, @ChineseEmbinUS, posted this month saying that Uighur women were no longer “baby making machines,” citing a study reported by state-backed newspaper China Daily.
The tweet was removed by Twitter and replaced by a label stating that it was no longer available. Although Twitter hides tweets that violate its policies, it requires account owners to manually delete such posts. The Chinese embassy’s account has not posted any new tweets since Jan. 9.
“We’ve taken action on the Tweet you referenced for violating our policy against dehumanization, where it states: We prohibit the dehumanization of a group of people based on their religion, caste, age, disability, serious disease, national origin, race, or ethnicity,” a Twitter spokesperson said on Thursday.
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately to a e-mailed request for comment. Twitter is blocked in China.
The embassy’s account suspension comes shortly after Twitter removed the account of former U.S. president Donald Trump, which had 88 million followers, citing the risk of violence after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol this month.
Twitter had locked Trump’s account, asking for deletion of some tweets, before restoring it and then removing it altogether after the former president violated the platform’s policies again.
(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Gerry Doyle)
He granted pardons to 73 people and commuted the sentences of another 70 people, according to a news release from the White House.
Several high-profile figures received pardons, including:
Former Republican House member Rick Renzi of Arizona, convicted in 2013 of extortion, bribery, insurance fraud, money laundering, and racketeering. Renzi left prison in 2017.
Former Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., who was released from prison in 2013 after serving eight years for charges of bribery, fraud, and tax evasion.
Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., the rapper known as Lil Wayne, who pleaded guilty to possession for a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon.
Broidy, who pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent and accepting money from Chinese and Malaysian interests to lobby the Trump administration.
Bannon, who was awaiting trial in Manhattan on federal fraud charges tied to a border wall fundraising effort.
Trump and Bannon have had an up-and-down relationship since the flamboyant adviser left the White House in 2017. At one point, Trump banished Bannon from his inner circle, claiming that he was a source of a critical book about the president, but Bannon still worked as a prominent backer of Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign.
Pardons follow intense lobbying effort; no family members included
For weeks, political allies, defense attorneys and others have staged an intense lobbying campaign, urging Trump to act on behalf of their clients.
The list was released about 1 a.m. Wednesday, with about 11 hours left in Trump’s term.
Soon after, at 1:07 a.m. ET, Trump issued an executive order revoking an ethics rule he authorized in 2017. The move frees former aides from restrictions on lobbying the government.
Robert Zangrillo, a Miami real estate developer who was part of the recent college entrance scandal, received a full pardon. He was accused of conspiring with a college consultant to bribe officials at the University of Southern California to designate his daughter as a recruit to the crew team.
Paul Erickson, the former boyfriend of Russian operative Maria Butina, also received a pardon. He was sentenced last year to 84 months in prison on charges of wire fraud and money laundering.
Among the white-collar offenders, Trump commuted the sentence of Sholam Weiss, convicted in a $450 million mortgage and insurance fraud scheme. He had been sentenced to 835 years after jumping bail.
Weiss was captured in Austria in 2000. His case was supported by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow. Weiss had been scheduled for release in 2738.
The list is also notable for who isn’t on it: The president himself, his family and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
In the final weeks of his presidency, some had speculated Trump would issue pre-emptive clemency to shield his family and lawyer from future legal vulnerability. Federal authorities have been investigating Giuliani and his business dealings in Ukraine.
Also not on the list were Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder indicted in 2019 on espionage charges, and Edward Snowden, the fugitive American who leaked secret files revealing vast surveillance operations carried out by the U.S. National Security Agency.
Lawmakers had asked Trump not to pardon Assange and Snowden.
Trump talked to aides about preemptive pardons for Republican lawmakers and others involved in planning the Jan. 6 protests who might face legal problems, an aide said. White House officials talked Trump out of granting pardons connected to the riots.
Last-minute pardons, including disputed ones, are something of a tradition for outgoing presidents.
As he left office in 2001, President Bill Clinton pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich in a move some analysts tied to financial contributions.
In late 1992, his term soon to expire, President George H.W. Bush pardoned aides involved in the Iran-Contra scandal.
The list of pardons included some who ‘turned their pain into purpose’
While many of Trump’s pardons and commutations went to political allies and high-profile criminals, others were doled out to relatively unknown figures, including some who had backing from justice reform advocates.
Among those was Amy Povah, who received a pardon from Trump after previously having her prison sentence commuted in 2000 by Clinton. Povah, who served nine years of a 24-year sentence in connection with offenses involving Ecstasy, became founder of CAN-Do (Calling for All Non-violent Drug Offenders) Foundation. The pardon record describes her as “a voice for the incarcerated, a champion for criminal justice reform.”
Another woman, Syrita Steib-Martin, also received a full pardon erasing her conviction, at age 19, for using fire during commission of a felony. After serving 10 years, Steib-Martin founded Operation Restoration to help female convicts make the transition out of prison.
A third individual, Lou Hobbs, had his sentence commuted by Trump after serving 24 months of a life term for a nonviolent drug offense.
Louis L. Reed, director of national organizing for Dream Corps, a criminal justice reform group, said he was ecstatic to see Hobbs gain redemption because the two men served time together at a federal penitentiary in New York.
Reed, who also had petitioned for a pardon, said his disappointment in being turned down “pales in comparison to the level of excitement and optimism I have because as one rises we all rise.”
Reed described Hobbs as an inspirational Christian and self-help teacher behind bars. He said Hobbs, as well as Povah and Steib-Martin, have been “models of positivity” and deserve the relief granted by Trump.
“They turned their pain into purpose,” he added.
The 73 pardons and 70 commutations were granted to a cross-section of Americans that included Lavonne Roach, a Lakota Sioux woman who lived through a cycle of abuse and drug addiction that led her to participate in a methamphetamine distribution scheme, according to a summary of her case published by a New York University Law School study that examined clemency candidates who had been passed over in the past.
Roach was sentenced in 1998 to 30 years in federal prison, said the study, which classified her as one of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders worthy of clemency.
In prison, she enrolled in a drug treatment program, completed thousands of hours of educational programs, took business-related courses and completed a two-year paralegal program. Now 56, Roach has a scheduled release date of July 2023.
Another convict, Michael Pelletier, was sentenced to life without parole in 2008 for conspiring to import and distribute marijuana. The NYU study said he used marijuana to cope with the pain and stress of a tractor accident at age 11 that left him paralyzed from the waist down, the study said.
Pelletier, 64, was the only defendant in his case sentenced to life behind bars. He opted to go to trial while they reached plea deals for lesser sentences, the study said.
Now using oil painting as an outlet, Pelletier has been certified by the federal Bureau of Prisons to teach art to other inmates.
Reed, the Dream Corps activist, declined to question whether Trump may have selected some deserving individuals for clemency to dampen the impact of pardons issued to political cronies.
“If he did the right thing for the wrong reasons, that’s something he’ll have to be answerable for at a later date,” Reed said.
Trump’s previous pardons: Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, others
Before the last round of pardons, Trump has granted clemency to more than 90 people during his term in office, including allies and former aides involved in the investigation of Russian election interference during the 2016 election.
That group includes Paul Manafort, a Trump campaign manager in 2016 who was convicted of defrauding banks; George Papadopoulos, a former campaign aide who admitted lying to the FBI; and Michael Flynn, a retired Army general who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials
Trump also commuted the sentence of longtime political adviser Roger Stone just days before he was set to report to prison after he was convicted of lying to Congress and obstructing the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Among other pardons: Charles Kushner, the father of presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. The elder Kushner has been convicted of preparing false tax returns and witness retaliation.
Pardons have also been granted to two former Republican members of Congress who were early supporters of Trump’s presidential bid: Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who had pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds; and Chris Collins, R-N.Y., who had pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to commit securities fraud.
In many cases, Trump did not work with the pardons office at the Department of Justice, but took action on his own based on requests by lobbyists to him and his top aides.
Legal analysts said Trump turned the presidential pardon power into a personal project designed to reward friends and political supporters.
Full list of Trump pardons Jan. 20:
Todd Boulanger, full pardon of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud
Abel Holtz, full pardon of impeding a grand jury investigation
Rick Renzi, full pardon to representative from Arizona convicted of extortion, bribery, insurance fraud, money laundering and racketeering
Kenneth Kurson, full pardon of cyberstalking
Casey Urlacher, full pardon of sports betting case
Carl Andrews Boggs, full pardon of two counts to corruption
James E. Johnson, Jr., full pardon to charges of illegal hunting of wildlife birds
Tommaso Buti, full pardon of financial fraud involving his restaurant chain
Glen Moss, full pardon of healthcare fraud
Anthony Levandowski, full pardon of stealing trade secrets from Google
Aviem Sella, full pardon of espionage
Michael Liberty, full pardon of campaign finance violations
Greg Reyes, full pardon of securities fraud
Jeffrey Alan Conway, full pardon of financial reporting fraud
Benedict Olberding, full pardon of bank fraud
Syrita Steib-Martin, full pardon of the use of fire to commit a felony
Eric Wesley Patton, full pardon of making a false statement on a mortgage application
Robert William Cawthon, full pardon of making a false statement on a bank loan application
Hal Knudson Mergler, full pardon of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of LSD
Gary Evan Hendler, full pardon of conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances
John Harold Wall, full pardon of aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine
Steven Samuel Grantham, full pardon of stealing a vehicle
Clarence Olin Freeman, full pardon of operating an illegal whiskey still
Fred Keith Alford, full pardon of a firearm violation
Alex Adjmi, full pardon of financial crime
Elliott Broidy, full pardon of conspiracy to serve as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal
Stephen K. Bannon, full pardon of charges related to fraud stemming from his involvement in a political project
Douglas Jemal, full pardon of fraud
Dr. Scott Harkonen, full pardon of fraud based on a misleading caption in a press release with respect to a treatment for a disease
Johnny D. Phillips, Jr., full pardon of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud
Dr. Mahmoud Reza Banki, full pardon of monetary violations of Iranian sanctions and making false statements
John Nystrom, full pardon of failure to alert authorities to double payments of subcontractors
Gregory Jorgensen, Deborah Jorgensen, Martin Jorgensen, full pardons of knowingly selling misbranded beef
Jessica Frease, full pardon of converting stolen checks and negotiating them through the bank where she worked as a teller
Robert Cannon “Robin” Hayes, full pardon of making a false statement in the course of a Federal investigation
Thomas Kenton “Ken” Ford, full pardon of making material misstatements to Federal mining officials
Jon Harder, full pardon of misusing investment funds during the real estate crisis
Scott Conor Crosby, full pardon of intent to commit a bank robbery
Lynn Barney, full pardon of possessing a firearm as a previously convicted felon, and having previously distributed a small amount of marijuana
Joshua J. Smith, full pardon of conspiracy to possess drugs with intent to distribute
Amy Povah, full pardon of a drug offense
Dr. Frederick Nahas, full pardon of obstructing justice in a health care investigation
David Tamman, full pardon of doctoring financial documents that were the subject of a Federal investigation
Dr. Faustino Bernadett, full pardon of failure to report a hospital kickback scheme of which he became aware
Paul Erickson, full pardon of attempting to develop a backchannel between the NRA and Russian government
Todd Farha, Thaddeus Bereday, William Kale, Paul Behrens, Peter Clay, full pardons false statements to the Florida Medicaid Program
David Rowland, full pardon of removing asbestos in elementary school without proper licensing
Randall “Duke” Cunningham, conditional pardon of accepting bribes while he held public office
Incoming Secretary of State Backs Pompeo’s Uyghur Genocide Designation
President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the State Department called China’s actions against Uyghur Muslims a genocide and said President Trump was “right in taking a tougher approach to China.”
In a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Secretary of State-designate Antony Blinken endorsed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement made earlier in the day that the U.S. will classify China’s treatment of Uyghurs as a “genocide.”
“That would be my judgment as well,” Blinken told the panel.
“On the Uyghurs, I think we’re very much in agreement,” he said.
China has imprisoned over one million Uyghurs in internment camps and has implemented a program of forced sterilizations for Uyghur women.
Blinkin, who worked at the State Department under then-Secretary of State John Kerry, praised President Trump for “taking a tougher approach to China” though he said he did not support the “way he went about it.”
“President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China,” Blinken said. “I disagree very much with the way he went about it in a number of areas, but the basic principle was the right one.”
The United States’ relationship with China has grown increasingly tense recently, as Trump blamed the Chinese government for the COVID-19 pandemic and grew frustrated with Beijing not holding up a partial trade deal it had previously agreed to.
Pompeo on Tuesday afternoon said that public opinion will require Biden to carry on the United States’ tougher stance on China.
“This challenge, the threat from the Chinese Communist Party, is real; it is existential to the United States,” he told Fox News. “I have great confidence that the American people have come to understand this challenge from the Chinese Communist Party and will expect every leader, whatever political stripe, to continue to protect and secure American freedoms.”
The incoming Biden administration has indicated its general agreement with the designation. A spokesman for Joseph R. Biden Jr. said during the presidential campaign last year that Beijing’s policies in the region amounted to genocide.
Here’s a look at the Xinjiang region, China’s crackdown there and what the genocide declaration could mean for the global response.
here is Xinjiang and why does it matter to China?
Xinjiang, in the far northwestern region of China, has large numbers of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other mostly Muslim groups. It is culturally, linguistically and religiously more similar to Central Asia than the Chinese interior.
The geography is dominated by the vast Taklamakan Desert in the center of the region, multiple mountain ranges and traditional oasis cities in the south. The area is rich in natural resources and has some of China’s largest oil deposits.
The Communist Party has ruled the region with a heavy hand since it took over control in 1949. To many Uighurs, Xinjiang is known as East Turkestan, a name shared by two short-lived independent republics that existed before the Communist takeover.
What is happening there?
Uighurs have long bridled at Chinese control of the region, which has seen an influx of ethnic Chinese migrants and an increase in restrictions on local language, culture and religion. Minority groups in Xinjiang say they aren’t given jobs or contracts because of widespread racial discrimination.
DEBATABLE: The sharpest arguments on the most pressing issues of the week.
The resentment has sometimes boiled over into violence, including attacks on police officers and civilians. In 2009, nearly 200 people, mostly Han Chinese, were killed in riots in Urumqi, the regional capital.
In 2016, a new Communist Party boss, Chen Quanguo, transferred to Xinjiang from Tibet. He began carrying out an intensified campaign of repression, putting large numbers of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other minority groups in re-education camps.
Under Mr. Chen, the use of surveillance, in the form of both high-tech facial recognition monitoring and traditional measures like police checkpoints, surged in the region. China has also attempted to control the growth of the Uighur population, and researchers say it has used repressive methods such as forced sterilizations.
Officials have held one million or more people in internment camps in Xinjiang, the country’s most sweeping mass detention program since the Mao era. A wide range of behavior can lead to detention, including acts of religious devotion, travel to certain countries, violations of birth restrictions or installing cellphone apps that allow encrypted messaging.
Why, in the U.S. view at least, do China’s actions in Xinjiang amount to genocide?
In his statement, Mr. Pompeo said the Chinese authorities in Xinjiang had committed crimes against humanity that include arbitrary imprisonment, forced sterilization, torture, forced labor and “draconian restrictions” on freedom of religion, expression and movement.
He added that the United States believes the Chinese authorities have committed genocide because they had “engaged in the forced assimilation and eventual erasure of a vulnerable ethnic and religious minority group.”
The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which has been ratified by at least 149 countries including China, defines genocide as any of these acts committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group: Killing its members; causing them serious bodily or mental harm; deliberately inflicting conditions calculated to cause the group’s physical destruction; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
How has the world responded?
The global response to the repression in Xinjiang has been relatively muted, an indication of China’s global clout. Over the past year, the United States has imposed sanctions on Chinese officials, companies and government bodies operating in Xinjiang.
The genocide declaration is the sharpest response thus far. Last year, a Canadian parliamentary subcommittee reached the same conclusion. The declaration by Mr. Pompeo could lead to further penalties by the United States, but those decisions will now be in the hands of the Biden administration.
One test will be whether the Biden administration will try to persuade American allies to support efforts to confront Beijing over its oppression in Xinjiang in a way the Trump administration did not. During his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Antony J. Blinken, Mr. Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, indicated that the United States would try to lobby support from other nations.
“When we are working with, not denigrating, our allies, that’s a source of strength for us in dealing with China,” he said.
FILE – In this file photo taken Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, a protester from the Uighur community living in Turkey, holds an anti-China placard during a protest in Istanbul, , against what they allege is oppression by the Chinese government to Muslim Uighurs in far-western Xinjiang province. The accusation of genocide by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo against China touches on a hot-button human rights issue between China and the West. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel, File)
BEIJING (AP) — China’s Foreign Ministry described outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday as a “doomsday clown” and said his designation of China as a perpetrator of genocide and crimes against humanity was merely “a piece of wastepaper.”
The allegations of abuses against Muslim minority groups in China’s Xinjiang region are “outright sensational pseudo-propositions and a malicious farce concocted by individual anti-China and anti-Communist forces represented by Pompeo,” spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a daily briefing.
“In our view, Pompeo’s so-called designation is a piece of wastepaper. This American politician, who is notorious for lying and deceiving, is turning himself into a doomsday clown and joke of the century with his last madness and lies of the century,” Hua said.
Pompeo’s announcement Tuesday doesn’t require any immediate actions, although the U.S. must take the designation into account in formulating policy toward China. China says its policies in Xinjiang aim only to promote economic growth and social stability.
The U.S. has previously spoken out and taken action on Xinjiang, implementing a range of sanctions against senior Chinese Communist Party leaders and state-run enterprises that fund repressive policies in the vast, resource-rich region. Last week, the Trump administration announced it would halt imports of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang, with Customs and Border Protection officials saying they would block products from there suspected of being produced with forced labor.
Many of the Chinese officials accused of having taken part in repression are already under U.S. sanctions. The “genocide” designation means new measures will be easier to impose.
Tuesday’s move is the latest in a series of steps the outgoing Trump administration has taken to ramp up pressure on China over issues from human rights and the coronavirus pandemic to Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. China has responded with its own sanctions and tough rhetoric.
China has imprisoned more than 1 million people, including Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups, in a vast network of prison-like political indoctrination camps, according to U.S. officials and human rights groups. People have been subjected to torture, sterilization and political indoctrination in addition to forced labor as part of an assimilation campaign in a region whose inhabitants are ethnically and culturally distinct from the Han Chinese majority.
The Associated Press reported on widespread forced birth control among the Uighurs last year, including the mass sterilization of Muslim women, even while family planning restrictions are loosened on members of China’s dominant Han ethnic group.
China has denied all the charges, but Uighur forced labor has been linked by reporting by the AP to various products imported to the U.S., including clothing and electronic goods such as cameras and computer monitors.
James Leibold, a specialist in Chinese ethnic policy at La Trobe in Melbourne, Australia, said international pressure appears to have had some effect on Chinese policies in Xinjiang, particularly in prompting the government to release information about the camps and possibly reducing mass detentions.
“So hopefully we’ll see a continued continuity with regards to the new (Joe Biden) administration on holding China to account,” Leibold said in an interview.
“And hopefully the Biden administration can bring its allies along to continue to put pressure on the Chinese government,” he said.
Associated Press journalist Dake Kang contributed to this report.