Merkley Emphasizes Importance of State Department Move to Recognize China’s Genocidal Actions Against Uyghurs, Other Muslim Minorities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC)—released the following statement today after the U.S. State Department finally recognized China’s genocidal behavior in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Merkley had previously urged the State Department to make this determination.

“America can’t stay silent in the face of China’s escalating surveillance, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and forced ‘re-education’ of Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups. These stomach-turning actions are a direct affront to the freedom and dignity of millions of human beings, and the values that are cherished by billions more around the world.

“You can’t address a problem without naming it. That’s why I’m gratified that the State Department has taken this important step forward in our fight to hold China accountable for these crimes against humanity, by finally calling China’s actions what they are: genocide. I look forward to building on this action under the Biden Administration to work more closely with partners around the world in holding the Chinese government accountable for its human rights violations in Xinjiang and elsewhere.”

Merkley wrote the provision in the fiscal year 2021 spending bill that requires a determination by April 1 on whether the persecution of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang constitutes atrocities. 

Merkley has been a consistent champion for strengthening the United States’ commitment to investigating and responding to the Chinese government’s human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in China. Previously, Merkley cosponsored the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, and authored the bill’s provisions sanctioning Chinese leaders responsible for these human rights violations.

In 2020, Merkley also co-led the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act—legislation to ensure that goods made in Xinjiang imported into the United States are not made with forced labor.