By / Jan 19

Today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an official determination that the People’s Republic of China is “committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, for targeting Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.” This announcement comes on Secretary Pompeo’s last day in office and a day before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. According to Axios, the U.S. has become the first country to adopt these terms to describe the Chinese Communist Party’s unconscionable human rights abuses in its far northwest.

Some of the reasons cited for the determination include “the arbitrary imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than one million civilians, forced sterilization, torture of a large number of those arbitrarily detained, forced labor, and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement.” 

Secretary Pompeo stated that one of the key facts in his determination was the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts to severely oppress Uyghur women with draconian birth control measures. Uyghur women are subjected to forced pregnancy checks, medication that stops their menstrual period, forced abortions, and surgical sterilizations. One of the major reasons that Uyghur women are sent to the internment camps is for having too many children. China’s goal, it seems, is to eradicate future generations of Uyghurs by manipulating who can and can’t bear children, and how many children a family can legally conceive. 

Why does this matter?

Since 2017, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has waged a systemic campaign of oppression and persecution against Uyghur Muslims, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic group. The geographic scope of the CCP’s campaign against Uyghurs is global, but primarily restricted to Xinjiang, China’s western-most territory, where Uyghurs have lived for centuries. Under the guise of national security, the CCP is seeking to “pacify” the region with totalitarian tactics like pervasive surveillance, thought control, ideological reeducation, forced birth control, and compulsory labor. Once Chinese police detain a Uyghur for questioning, they are often sent away for “political reeducation.” China has constructed upward of 1,000 internment camps for this purpose. Estimates vary, but experts posit that China has detained between 1 million and 3 million Muslims in these facilities. Aside from political indoctrination, physical and psychological abuse is commonplace throughout these camps, ranging from rape and torture to malnourishment and forced organ harvesting

The CCP also uses these camps to break apart Uyghur families. In cases where Uyghur husbands are sent off to camps, China has sent ethnically Han men to rape, and forcibly procreate with, the wives who are left behind. In some cases, where both the mother and father are detained, the CCP has sent Uyghur children to government-run boarding schools where all communication with the outside world is strictly regulated.

Members of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China sent a bipartisan letter asking that the Administration make an official determination as to whether the Chinese government is responsible for perpetrating atrocity crimes, including genocide, against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim ethnic minorities. Additionally, Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced a bipartisan resolution to designate human rights abuses perpetrated by the People’s Republic of China against the Uyghur people and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) as genocide. 

What is genocide?

The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” The acts enumerated include:

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; or
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

A genocide determination sends a powerful signal to the international community that the United States will not remain silent in the face of the CCP’s atrocities towards the Uyghur people.

What’s next?

Secretary Pompeo called upon the People’s Republic of China “immediately to release all arbitrarily detained persons and abolish its system of internment, detention camps, house arrest and forced labor; cease coercive population control measures, including forced sterilizations, forced abortion, forced birth control, and the removal of children from their families; end all torture and abuse in places of detention; end the persecution of Uyghurs and other members of religious and ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China, and afford Uyghurs and other persecuted minorities the freedom to travel and emigrate.”

Additionally, he called on “all appropriate multilateral and relevant juridical bodies, to join the United States in our effort to promote accountability for those responsible for these atrocities.”

“The Chinese government’s atrocities against the Uyghur people in Xingjiang is clearly genocide. I welcome the State Department’s recognition of it as such. The world must not turn our eyes away from this genocide against human beings made in the image of God. I pray that President-elect Biden and Secretary-designate Blinken will have great success in rallying our nation and our allies to stand against this injustice. We can never again allow genocide to go unnoticed and unanswered. In addition, I urge the business community to take seriously what is happening to this imperiled religious minority.  Few issues these days seem to transcend our country’s partisan divisions, but this should be one of them,” Russell Moore stated.

How has the ERLC advocated for persecuted people?

In December, Dr. Moore sent Secretary Pompeo a letter urging him to issue a genocide determination. Additionally, the ERLC has been advocating for the Uyghur Forced Labor Act, which prohibits goods made with forced labor in the Xinjiang region or by entities using Uyghur labor forcibly transferred from Xinjiang from entering the U.S. market. The ERLC hosted a high-level discussion on the Uyghur situation in China and shared ways pastors and Christians can get involved and help. The ERLC will continue working to counter China morally, and will continue to stand up for persecuted people.

By / Aug 10

Over the last few weeks, there has been a cultural firestorm over the viral video sharing app TikTok and a potential ban in the United States. TikTok’s usage surged during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns with millions of users finding reprieve during this difficult season of isolation and social distancing. My colleague Conrad Close and I recently wrote about this application that has taken the world by storm. It is the first major mobile application to be built specifically for the smartphone era and has been wildly successful, with rival social media companies seeking to catch up or even ride the momentum of its innovative approach to video sharing. From Instagram’s newly released Reels to the promised Youtube Shorts, major technology companies see the success of TikTok and desire to be a part of this shift in the way people connect and share information.

Alongside the enjoyable family dance videos, jokes, and even political activism on TikTok, there is a considerable threat to freedom, human rights, and personal privacy that often flies under the radar based on TikTok’s contentious relationship with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and their involvement with private companies. This is one of the main reasons that the United States government has been exploring options of banning or encouraging the sale of the U.S. TikTok operations to a non-Chinese company like Microsoft. 

Often threats to freedom and human rights are characterized as an overreaction to legitimate competition from rival technology companies, but this is a truncated view of the power and influence not only of the CCP in China but also throughout the world. The argument centers on the idea that Chinese companies should have the right to export their values and compete on the open market as anyone else. But should these Chinese technology companies be treated differently on the world stage?

State-backed technology

In The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State, Elizabeth C. Economy writes on how President Xi Jinping’s Chinese state embraced technology early on to strengthen the power and influence of the state, while at the same time limiting the freedom and democratization of information for its people. Under Xi Jinping, the CCP wants to embrace the global political influence through China’s innovation hubs, social media companies like TikTok, and the growing economic output through manufacturing. But it also rejects the fundamental democratizing aspects that come with the free flow of information in the public square.

From the “Great Fire Wall,” which filters internet access and content by only allowing “acceptable” content to the Chinese people, to the use of facial recognition technologies powered by artificial intelligence to track and detain government dissidents (including religious minorities like the persecuted Uighur Muslims), China’s heavy-handed approach to technology and state leadership has allowed it to emerge as a global superpower on the world stage without any true accountability. The CCP’s influence in global affairs has also led nations around the world to passively accept Chinese dogma such as the controversial “One China” policy in relation to Taiwan, growing influence in Hong Kong through the recent enacted security law, and insider access to valuable data and information collected by its rapidly growing technology sector. This influence includes control over companies and their data collection such as TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, 5G network and telecom provider Huawei, and even the popular messaging app WeChat.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last Wednesday, “With parent companies based in China, apps like TikTok, WeChat, and others are significant threats to personal data of American citizens, not to mention tools for CCP content censorship.” These threats to personal data and privacy have to do with the unique relationship between Chinese companies and the Communist party. Chinese technology companies like ByteDance are required to cooperate with “state intelligence work” per the 2017 Chinese National Intelligence Law. This type of agreement not only allows Chinese interference in personal data captured by these applications, but also gives the government wide-reaching control and power over how these companies operate and with whom they associate.

According to the Canadian government’s assessment of the 2017 intelligence law, “the law’s vague definition of intelligence in the opening articles suggests intelligence includes both information collected and activities conducted in support of comprehensive state security.” This broad and overreaching authority in a company’s affairs is concerning on a number of fronts, but none more important than issues surrounding basic human rights and freedoms. In an ironic twist given the Chinese restrictions on a open and free internet, Reuters reports that in response to the U.S. government’s actions last week, the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, said the United States “has no right” to set up a “Clean Network” and calls the actions by Washington as “a textbook case of bullying.”

Standing for the oppressed

It is understandable that there would be controversy surrounding the potential ban of TikTok throughout the world, especially in the United States, because of the popularity of the app and the relative freedoms we experience. Our nation is based on a democratic form of government, where our government leaders are accountable to the people and our nation’s laws are subject to our elected representatives. While questions and concerns abound about the proper role of government and of technology companies in the public square, the United States (and other Western nations) have the ability to enact change and even protest the presence of repressive measures in ways that the Chinese people simply do not. We also have the ability to publicly disagree with our government’s position and decisions. This is part of what separates our nation from authoritarian regimes, like China.

Chinese citizens are denied basic human rights and are subject to draconian laws that seek to dehumanize and suppress any dissidents against the CCP’s power and control. This is clearly seen in the recently enacted Hong Kong security law which bans sedition, secession, and subversion. As my colleague Chelsea Patterson Sobolik has said, “China is remaking Hong Kong in its own image, and freedom-loving men and women on the island-city and around the world are concerned. Hongkongers have watched how the communist government treats its citizens, severely restricting their freedoms of religion, assembly, and speech.”

China has a long record of blatant human rights and religious liberty violations that have been thrust on the world stage with the continued revelations of the treatment of Uighur Muslims and other minorities. These men and women created in God’s image have been subjected to concentration like camps, forced work, renunciation of their faith, and government propaganda, all in hopes of strengthening Chinese “national security”—a cover for authoritarian power grabs and state control.

The security and privacy concerns with Chinese technologies like TikTok, Huawei, and others do not only concern American citizens. These issues also extend to the treatment of other image-bearers who do not experience the same freedoms we are guaranteed in this country. Christians should be among the first to stand up against and speak clearly on these blatant violations of human rights because we believe that every person—no matter where they live or what they believe—are image-bearers of God himself and deserve the utmost respect and dignity.

Often standing up for the oppressed means giving up some of your own freedoms and opportunities as you seek to see justice enacted and human life valued. These sacrifices pale in comparison to the lack of freedom and opportunities experienced by our fellow image-bearers, especially those under the heavy authoritarian hand of the Chinese Communist Party. We stand with the oppressed, all of whom are created in the image of our Maker, because our Savior bled and died for us when we had nothing to offer and stood oppressed by our own.