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

Jul 31, 2020 - Technology

Chinese facial recognition developer nears $1.5 billion funding round

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

SenseTime, a Chinese developer of facial recognition technologies, is wrapping up a $1.5 billion funding round at a $10 billion valuation and is in talks to list on China’s STAR market, per Reuters.

Why it matters: This is the company’s first fundraise since being placed on a U.S. blacklist for alleged involvement in human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in China. It previously raised nearly $3 billion, including from U.S.-based firms like Fidelity, Glade Brook, Qualcomm Ventures, and Silver Lake Partners.

Elliott Abrams to replace Brian Hook as Trump's Iran envoy

Brian Hook. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Image

President Trump's Iran envoy, Brian Hook, is stepping down, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed Thursday. He will be replaced with Venezuela envoy Elliott Abrams, a noted Iran hawk who will serve in both roles.

Why it matters: Hook had been tasked with executing Trump's "maximum pressure" policy toward Iran, working closely with Pompeo. That strategy has deepened tensions and thus far failed to force Iran back to the negotiating table, as Trump had hoped.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tests positive for coronavirus ahead of Trump visit

Photo: Justin Merriman/Getty Images

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) has tested positive for COVID-19 and plans to quarantine at his home for the next 14 days, his office announced Thursday. He currently has no symptoms.

Why it matters: The 73-year-old DeWine was set to meet President Trump Thursday on the tarmac at an airport in Cleveland and was tested as part of standard protocol. He is the second governor known to have contracted the coronavirus, after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R).