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U.S. commission says China may be guilty of "crimes against humanity"

Protesters at the Hague during a visit from Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang. Photo: Pierre Crom/Getty Images

In its annual report released today, the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) said that there is a "strong argument" that China has committed "crimes against humanity" in its northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Why it matters: A growing number of voices, in and out of government, are saying that China's mass detention camps clearly violate international law.

The commission listed several acts committed by the Chinese government in Xinjiang that could, under the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court, support a legal case that China has committed "crimes against humanity."

Context: The 323-page annual report provides detailed information on human rights developments in China in 2019.

  • The report includes sections on freedom of speech, criminal justice, worker rights, civil rights, ethnic minority policy, freedom of religion, public health, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and other topics.
  • It also details China's policies of repression of religion and society among Turkic Muslim groups in Xinjiang, including detention camps, intrusive surveillance, forced labor, and forced family separations.

What they're saying:

  • "Scholars and rights groups provided a strong argument, based on available evidence, that the 'crimes against humanity' framework may apply to the case of mass internment camps" in Xinjiang, according to the report.
  • "Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court provides a list of 11 acts that may constitute 'crimes against humanity' 'when committed against a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.'"

Details: The report listed 4 acts committed by Chinese authorities that could quality as crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute:

  • The arbitrary detention of Uighur, Kazakh, and other ethnic minorities in China in well-documented mass internment camps;
  • The torture of detainees in those camps;
  • The detention of people and suppression of religious and cultural traditions in ways clearly targeted against specific minority groups;
  • The forced disappearances of hundreds of intellectuals in the region.

The commission also called on governments to consider levying sanctions on China under the Global Magnitsky Act for its campaign of repression against Muslim minorities.

The big picture: The Chinese government has attempted to suppress global criticism of its policies in Xinjiang, but those criticisms are only getting louder.