To deflect criticism from U.S. officials, Chinese officials have also taken to underlining some of the Trump administration’s vast governance failures, including a death toll of more than 400,000 from the coronavirus pandemic and the deadly assault on the Capitol by a mob incited by Mr. Trump.
Some Uighurs expressed gratitude for the decision. “Today’s determination of genocide is a signal of recognition to the long suffering of victims and survivors of the Chinese government’s internment camps, like my brother Ekpar, and millions of Uighurs,” said Rayhan Asat, a lawyer in Washington whose younger brother is imprisoned in Xinjiang. “It is the starting point on the road to justice, freedom and accountability for these atrocities.”
Ziba Murat, a Virginia resident whose mother, Gulshan Abbas, is imprisoned, said, “This gives us hope that those who have attempted to water down what is happening with the destruction of our people can no longer hide their complicity.”
Before the new condemnation from Washington, the strongest statement by a government entity declaring that China’s actions in Xinjiang amounted to genocide came from a Canadian parliamentary subcommittee. Last October, the subcommittee concluded that the Chinese Communist Party was culpable of the crime.
Mr. Pompeo and senior State Department officials made the decision just days before Mr. Biden takes office. The finding could complicate his administration’s dealings with Beijing, but it also offers a source of leverage. Mr. Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, said Tuesday at a Senate confirmation hearing that he agreed with the genocide determination and denounced the Xinjiang “concentration camps.” He also asserted that China “poses the most significant challenge of any nation-state to the United States.”
In the days before the decision, State Department officials had argued over whether China’s actions in Xinjiang met the standard for genocide or whether they fell under crimes against humanity, which has a lower standard, said American officials familiar with the debate. Mr. Pompeo decided to use both.
One American official said the best rationale for the genocide label was the use of forced sterilizations, birth control and family separations to destroy Uighur identity.