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China's ambassador to the U.K., Liu Xiaoming, struggled on Sunday to explain drone footage from the region of Xinjiang that appears to show prisoners with shaved heads shackled, blindfolded and being led to trains.

Why it matters: The video, which first appeared in October 2019 but resurfaced and went viral recently, has prompted fresh scrutiny of the human rights abuses China is carrying out against Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities.

  • Since 2017, China's government has detained an estimated 1 million–2 million Uighurs in "re-education camps" that it claims are being used to root out extremism.
  • Last month, AP reported that China is engaging in a sweeping campaign of forced birth control and sterilization on Uighurs and other minorities that is "far more widespread and systematic" than was previously known — efforts that some experts have described as "demographic genocide."

What he's saying: Liu, who was confronted with the video by BBC talk show host Andrew Marr, defended Xinjiang as the "most beautiful place" and claimed he did not know where the footage came from. "Sometimes you have a transfer of prisoners," he said.

  • Liu said there has been "no so-called restriction of the population" in the region, despite research that shows birth rates in Xinjiang fell by 24% last year alone, compared to 4.2% nationwide.
  • “Uighur people enjoy peaceful, harmonious coexistence with other ethnic groups of people,” he claimed.

The other side: U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said later on the show that while "genocide" is "such a specific definition you have to be very careful" with, it's clear there are "gross, egregious human rights abuses going on" in Xinjiang.

“The reports of the human aspects of it, from forced sterilization to the re-education camps, are reminiscent of something we have not seen for a long, long time. And this is from a leading member of the international community, who wants to be taken seriously, and whom we want a positive relationship. But we cannot see behavior like that and not call it out, albeit with our partners and in the right way.”
— Dominic Raab

Go deeper: U.S. sanctions Chinese officials over Uighur human rights abuses

Go deeper

Oct 26, 2020 - World

China to sanction Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon over Taiwan arms sales

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen during a visit to Penghu Air Force Base. Photo: Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images

China plans to impose unspecified sanctions on Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and other U.S. companies involved in weapons sales to Taiwan, Reuters reports, citing a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson.

Why it matters: The Trump administration last week notified Congress of an additional $1.8 billion in proposed arms sales to Taiwan. China's recent military exercises and the buildup of forces along its southeastern coast have renewed fears of an invasion of Taiwan, which Beijing views as a breakaway province that must be brought under its control.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
47 mins ago - Podcasts

Net neutrality on the line under Biden

Federal net neutrality rules are back on the table in the Biden administration, after being nixed by Trump, but now might be complicated by the debate over social media companies' behavior.

Axios Re:Cap digs into why net neutrality matters and what comes next with Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge and host of the Decoder podcast.

House grants waiver for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to lead Pentagon

Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted 326-78 on Thursday to grant retired Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver to lead the Pentagon, clearing the way for the Senate to confirm President Biden's nominee for defense secretary as early as this week.

Why it matters: Austin's nomination received pushback from some lawmakers, including Democrats, who cited a law that requires officers be out of the military for at least seven years before taking the job — a statute intended to reinforce the tradition of civilian control of the Pentagon.