The Guardian view on Xinjiang and crimes against humanity: speaking and acting | Editorial

The US has accused China of genocide against the Uighurs, while British MPs are pressing the government to take a tougher standIt took a long time for leaders to notice, longer to condemn, and longer still to act. It took time for researchers to amass …

The US has accused China of genocide against the Uighurs, while British MPs are pressing the government to take a tougher stand

It took a long time for leaders to notice, longer to condemn, and longer still to act. It took time for researchers to amass evidence of China’s treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang – from mass detention to forced sterilisation – given the intense security and secrecy in the north-west region. Beijing initially denied the existence of the camps, believed to have held about a million Turkic Muslims, before describing them as educational centres to tackle extremism. But the hesitation by other governments also reflected the anxiety to maintain relations with the world’s second-largest economy.

The US, on Donald Trump’s final day in office, became the first country to declare that China is committing genocide. The administration has already targeted officials and issued a ban on any cotton or tomato products from the region. On Tuesday, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, described a “systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state … forced assimilation and eventual erasure”. A more cautious report from a bipartisan US Congressional commission said that China had committed crimes against humanity and “possibly” genocide.

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