June 10, 2023

Senators Call for Formal Recognition of the Uyghur Genocide

A bipartisan group of senators led by senators Menendez and Cornyn is leading a push to designate the Chinese Communist Party’s crimes in Xinjiang as a genocide by way of a Senate resolution. Its passage would make the U.S. Senate the first legislative body in the world to officially recognize the situation in the region as a genocide.

This follows a letter this week signed by Senators Rubio, Cornyn, Merkley, and Cardin requesting that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issue a genocide determination:

But more than additional sanctions are needed. The United States has made the prevention of genocide and other atrocity crimes a priority though the ratification of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1988, and the enactment of the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act (P.L. 115-441). We renew our request for the Department to issue a public determination of whether atrocity crimes are being committed in the XUAR – and if these crimes amount to genocide. Doing so will further focus the Administration’s resources to address and expose offenses in the XUAR and demonstrate U.S. leadership to the international community.

As I wrote in September, U.S. government genocide determinations are an incredibly tricky thing. They require solid evidence to meet the criteria set out under the 1948 Genocide Convention. In order to be credible, and therefore spur action, the reasoning needs to be airtight. Sadly, there’s a strong, well-documented case for a determination in this case.

Issuing a determination alone won’t change the facts on the ground, and in fact, it is likely to have little material effect in the short run. However, there’s something compelling about stating the blunt, obvious truth: The CCP has fought hard to cover up its industrial-scale crimes, and it’s about time that we use the proper term for what’s taking place.

Since there’s already a domestic political consensus around this, the most significant practical effect of a genocide determination would be to shock the rest of the world out of shameful complacency. It’s long overdue.

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