In January, the US government officially determined that Chinese government actions against the Uyghur people constitute genocide. As a candidate, Joe Biden was there first.
Uyghur Americans felt a surge of hope when Biden’s team condemned the oppression of our people in August, saying “the unspeakable oppression that Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have suffered at the hands of China’s authoritarian government is genocide and Joe Biden stands against it in the strongest terms.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has affirmed that he shares his predecessor’s judgment that China’s crimes constitute genocide. His commitment to America’s role in upholding international human rights is deep. He has spoken about his stepfather, who survived the Holocaust after finding safety upon encountering American GIs: “That’s what America represents to the world, however imperfectly,” he said.
US Must End ‘Tech Complicity’
The totalistic nature of the crimes against Uyghurs is horrifying to contemplate. However, China’s outsized role in the global economy means that companies and countries around the world are reluctant to speak out.
Take surveillance technology. My entire homeland of East Turkistan has been transformed into a high-tech police state, complete with “Muslim-tracking” software touted by Chinese tech firms such as Huawei, Dahua, and Hikvision.
Their surveillance cameras, used to monitor Uyghurs inside and outside so-called “reeducation camps,” are still sold worldwide. Beijing’s model of total surveillance is already being exported globally.
Blinken’s team should get to work immediately on its commitment to work with allies to end tech complicity. The worldwide tech industry, including giants such as Amazon and Google, must no longer be free to cooperate with companies helping to conduct China’s racial profiling and 24/7 digital surveillance of Uyghurs.
Recategorizing Uyghur Refugees
At one stroke, the State Department can also provide a safe haven for Uyghurs at risk in third countries by designating Uyghurs as “Priority 2” refugees. Priority 2 will remove a critical choke point by eliminating the need for UNHCR processing, given the UNHCR track record of failing to protect Uyghurs from China’s extensive reach.
Incredibly, even many Uyghurs who have reached the US are still in limbo. US Citizenship and Immigration Services under Biden must expedite Uyghur asylum applications pending for as long as five years.
Banning Uyghur Region Products
The previous administration’s action to ban imported products manufactured with forced-labor and sanction perpetrators remains inadequate.
The January 13 ban on cotton and tomato products, while impactful, was hardly proportional to the massive scale of China’s state-organized program of modern slavery. The Biden administration needs to go further, enacting a full regional ban on all products from the Uyghur Region and imposing criminal penalties on companies attempting to evade the ban.
US Must Regain Moral Leadership, Head Multilateral Coalition
What must come next is a multilateral approach. Uyghurs around the world look to the US as the only country that can lead a global response to the genocide. Biden’s focus on global relationships based on shared democratic values is exactly what’s needed, and his commitment to multilateral approaches gives him tremendous credibility in bringing Europe and other allies on board.
Only the US has imposed Magitsky-style sanctions on the perpetrators of these human rights abuses. America must invest in diplomacy to persuade other countries that expressions of concern are empty without targeted sanctions.
No government should allow companies to import goods made through the forced labor of Uyghurs. Measures under consideration in Australia, Canada, and the UK should be taken up by other countries. American diplomacy needs to put the question plainly to allies in Europe, Asia, and beyond: are you going to continue to sit on the sidelines while your companies profit from state-organized modern slavery?
No Time to Lose
As the US re-joins the UN Human Rights Council, Uyghurs expect Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield to mobilize a long-overdue multilateral response to Chinese atrocities. The International Labor Organization and the UN Security Council have remained completely silent to date. This has to change.
There is no time to lose. Rescuing the survivors of China’s genocide will not be up to American GIs this time. It’s up to Mr. Biden and his team to lead a global response.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.