Thursday, June 20, 2024

Secretary Blinken: China Continues to Commit Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity in Xinjiang Against Uyghurs

Washington, DC – Releasing the 2021 Human Rights Report, Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted an alarming recession of democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights in many parts of the world.  “In the time since releasing our previous report, that backsliding has, unfortunately, continued,” he said.

In his remarks, Blinken said the human consequences of this decline have been the most severe in Russia’s brutal war on Ukraine.  As Russian forces have been forced back from towns and cities they occupied or surrounded, the evidence of their atrocities is clearly visible.  “We see what this receding tide is leaving in its wake – the bodies, hands bound, left on streets; the theaters, train stations, apartment buildings reduced to rubble with civilians inside.  We hear it in the testimonies of women and girls who’ve been raped and the besieged civilians starving and freezing to death.”

Secretary Blinken acknowledged the challenges that the US has not only with civil and political rights, but also economic, social, cultural rights.  Promoting access to education and health services, including for reproductive health, is just as critical to advancing human rights as defending freedom of expression and assembly.

Highlighting some of the “most alarming findings of the report,” Blinken said that governments are growing more brazen in reaching across borders to threaten and attack critics.  In the last year, Iranian intelligence agents plotted to kidnap an Iranian American journalist from her home in Brooklyn. The Assad regime threatened Syrians who were cooperating with efforts in Germany’s courts to prosecute former officials for atrocities.  The Lukashenka regime in Belarus forcibly diverted an international commercial flight to arrest an independent journalist.

Blinken noted that countries are imprisoning more critics at home, and there are over a million political prisoners being held in over 65 countries.  They include more than 600 people unjustly imprisoned in Cuba for taking part in peaceful protests last July; countless Russian anti-corruption activists and opposition leaders, including Aleksey Navalny; opposition presidential candidates in Benin; and Egyptian advocates like human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer. There has been a sharp  rise in governments arbitrarily detaining individuals to try to gain leverage in bilateral relationships, to use them as human pawns.

The Chinese Government continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs, among other minority groups, to erode fundamental freedoms and autonomy in Hong Kong, and to carry out systematic repression in Tibet.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban’s takeover precipitated a humanitarian crisis, and has resulted in serious erosion of human rights, from arbitrary detentions of women, protesters, and journalists, to reprisals against security forces for the former government, to growing restrictions on where women and girls can study or work.

In Ethiopia, all parties to the country’s conflict, as well as Eritrean forces, have committed atrocities, and thousands of Ethiopians are being unjustly detained in life-threatening conditions.

Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Lisa Peterson said that despite innumerable achievements over that period to defend and strengthen democracy and to promote and protect human rights and labor rights, serious challenges persist.  Some of the challenges to democracy and human rights are longstanding, others are new and evolving.  “All demand continued leadership from the United States in close collaboration with our partners and allies across the globe.”

Peterson noted that strengthening democracy in the United States and ensuring that the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all people are protected and advanced is a critical part of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to global leadership on human rights.  “We can’t be credible advocates for human rights abroad if we don’t live up to the same principles at home.  We do not claim a moral high ground, but we do, in the words of our Constitution, resolve “to form a more perfect union,” which means we must continue to address the many human rights challenges in our own country.”

Peterson said democracy and human rights have been threatened and undermined by disinformation, misinformation, and outright lies around the world.  The Human Rights Report aims to bring the facts to the table.  “It is only when we’re armed with the truth that the United States can most effectively use our voice and our influence to call attention to violations and abuses of human rights worldwide, and press the perpetrators of these violations and abuses to change course and end their egregious conduct.”

Peterson noted Russia’s crackdown on freedom of information, freedom of expression in Russia in the context of the Ukraine conflict. “This was space that they were closing even before the conflict started.  Their efforts to close down that space have simply grown exponentially since the start of the conflict, and we would want to see that space reopened so that Russians can understand what is happening within their neighborhood and what their government is doing.”

The report covers the status of human rights worldwide – in 2021, including 198 countries and territories.

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