China accuses US of double standards on human rights

Accusation, prompted by US report highlighting ongoing genocide in Xinjiang, comes day before Blinken’s visit to China

China has accused the United States of double standards after a state department human rights report said the Chinese authorities were continuing to carry out genocide and crimes against humanity in the western province of Xinjiang. And on the eve of a visit by secretary of state Antony Blinken, Beijing claimed that the US was seeking to suppress China’s industrial development with complaints about overcapacity in manufacturing.

Mr Blinken’s three-day visit, which begins in Shanghai on Wednesday, follows a week-long trip earlier this month by treasury secretary Janet Yellen amid signs of a thaw in the relationship. But Mr Blinken plans to confront China about the export of goods to Russia that could help its war against Ukraine and call for more action to stop the export to the US of chemicals used to produce fentanyl.

In a preface to the human rights report, which was published on Monday, Mr Blinken said it documented “ongoing, grave human rights abuses” in China.

“For example, in Xinjiang, [China] continues to carry out genocide, crimes against humanity, forced labour, and other human rights violations against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups,” he said.


The former United Nations high commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet concluded in 2022 that China had committed serious human rights violations in Xinjiang in the context of counter-terrorism and counter-extremism strategies. She described as credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment of Uyghur Muslims detained in re-education camps called “Vocational Education and Training Centres”.

China has denied that it engaged in human rights abuses but this week’s state department report said that many Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang remained imprisoned and accused Beijing of widespread human rights violations.

“Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: arbitrary or unlawful killings by the government; enforced disappearances by the government; torture by the government; involuntary or coercive medical or psychological practices; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention by the government including, since 2017, of more than one million Uyghurs and members of other predominantly Muslim minority groups in extrajudicial internment camps, prisons, and an additional unknown number subjected to daytime-only ‘re-education’ training,” the report said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday that if Washington cared about human rights, it should address its own social problems and consider the impact of American foreign policy, including in Gaza.

“It should face up to and reflect on its intervention operations in other countries and human rights catastrophes resulting from US provision of weapons and fanning the flames in regional conflicts. The US, turning a blind eye to over 110,000 civilian casualties in Gaza, vetoed the UN Security Council’s efforts for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza four times. That alone says enough about how little human rights actually mean to the US and how it tramples on them,” he said.

Mr Blinken on Monday denied the charge of operating a double standard after the state department report accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine but described the Israeli military campaign in Gaza as having “a significant negative impact on the human rights situation” there.

“Do we have a double standard? The answer is no,” he said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times