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Why the U.S. Keeps Harping on Human Rights

May 20, 2022
  • Zhou Xiaoming

    Former Deputy Permanent Representative of China’s Mission to the UN Office in Geneva

A recent media report suggested that the Biden administration in Washington is considering renewing sanctions on Chinese tech company Hikvision. If true, it would mark the fourth attempt by the U.S. to stir up the so-called Xinjiang human rights issue in just six months.

In December, the U.S. Congress passed the Uygur Forced Labor Prevention Act and banned imports of products from Xinjiang. In February last year, the White House initiated a “diplomatic boycott” of the Beijing Winter Olympics. On March 22, the U.S. announced sanctions against officials of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.

What is the U.S. driving at with these repeated attempts to stir up the human rights issue in Xinjiang? All of these moves — the ban on imports of Xinjiang products, deterring U.S. companies from transactions with Xinjiang  and sanctions against Chinese companies heavily involved in the economic prosperity and stability of Xinjiang — are thinly veiled attempts to sap Xinjiang’s development. Unmistakably, the U.S. aims to derail Xinjiang’s economic growth and disturb its prosperity and stability by planting rumors.

Behind all the smearing and mud-slinging is a hideous motive — to cast China as a public enemy, undermine its international standing and curtail its global influence.

On the last day of the Trump administration, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, escalated the U.S. narrative on human rights in Xinjiang to “genocide” and “crimes against humanity.” The Biden administration continued to invent false genocide allegations against China, accusing it of engaging in forced labor, systematic rape, and forced sterilization and abortion in Xinjiang. Genocide is deemed the most heinous crime against humanity and a great evil by virtually everyone. 

The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as the intentional destruction, in whole or in part, of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. Genocide was closely associated with the abhorrent Nazi Holocaust. The word “genocide” was first used in the indictments of German war criminals at the Nuremberg trials in November 1945.

In fact, if the U.S. accusations were substantiated, the White House could have filed a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice. But of course, doing so would only embarrass the U.S. and backfire. At the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council, nearly 100 countries endorsed and echoed China, many of them Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Jeffrey Sachs, professor of economics at Columbia University and a three-term adviser to the U.N. secretary-general, wrote an article last April criticizing the Biden administration’s unsubstantiated and untenable accusations of genocide against the Chinese government and said they should be dropped.

America’s attempt to apply the genocide label to China reveals a treacherous intent to portray China’s governance policy in Xinjiang in the same breath as the infamous Nazi Holocaust and the Rwandan massacre, and thus brand China as “anti-humanity.”

Stigmatizing and demonizing China to make it the bad kid on the block is both a primary goal of the U.S. in its efforts to suppress China and a major means of containing its rise. The same motive also explains the U.S. attempt to stigmatize a laboratory in Wuhan as the source of the coronavirus and to discredit the Belt and Road Initiative as a “debt trap” targeting developing countries.

The U.S. did manage to score some points by confusing black with white and smearing China through the use of disinformation. The strategy has paid off handsomely, for example, on issues related to Tibet. Prolonged brainwashing had pulled the wool over the eyes of many in the West, who now believe the fake narratives.

I recall my own experience in November 1999 at the conclusion of the WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle. As we were walking down the street after the meeting, a group of Americans approached us and a young man, after learning who we were, aggressively claimed that 3 or 4 million Tibetans had been killed. Li Zhaoxing, who was Chinese ambassador to the United States, asked him where he got such impressions. The fellow said he learned from his textbooks.

Ambassador Li was indignant and responded by asking whether or not this person knew that the population of Tibet was only 1 million or so at the time of liberation. What your textbooks tell you could not be further from the truth, he said. The total population of Tibet had increased to 2.21 million by 1999, which double what it was in 1950. And by the end of last year the Tibetan population had reached 3.14 million, more than twice as many as at the beginning of the liberation of Tibet.

We shouldn’t be surprised that the lies about genocide in Xinjiang peddled by the U.S. did not recede with the recent visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to the region. There will be more, not less, smearing of China’fs international image by the U.S. and some others in the West. China’s global outreach may be seen by some as a beast that must be tamed. But the truth will always prevail and people will come to their senses when the lies are debunked. 

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