An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Good afternoon. It’s an honor to be with you today and to stand in solidarity with Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. And thank you all for being here. I would like to note that the PRC’s continued attempts to intimidate and silence those speaking out on human rights is yet another example of its global campaign of transnational repression. I am pleased to see that these tactics have only increased international scrutiny of the atrocities in Xinjiang and human rights abuses throughout the country.

A little over a year ago, the former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, released a thorough assessment documenting numerous serious human rights concerns in Xinjiang—an assessment that current High Commissioner Volker Türk stands by. Many of the conclusions and recommendations from that assessment remain true and pressing today, as the High Commissioner noted in his opening remarks at the 54th session of the Human Rights Council on September 11th, when he stated that “the concerns in Xinjiang UAR require strong remedial action by the authorities, as per our recommendations.”

In its report, OHCHR concluded that “the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of the Uyghur and predominantly Muslim groups … may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.” It further noted that “serious human rights violations have been committed” in Xinjiang.

The assessment highlighted the “inherently arbitrary” detention system that is “marked by patterns of torture.” It offered witness allegations of sexual and gender-based violence. It included information on the significant decline in birth rates among Uyghurs as a result of the PRC’s coercive reproductive policies. The High Commissioner’s assessment offers a strong indictment of the PRC’s human rights violations and abuses and its misuse of counterterrorism policies to justify harshly discriminatory policies and practices.

In this assessment, the High Commissioner calls for further investigation and makes some important recommendations moving forward. This is why we must view this assessment as the beginning—not the end—of the High Commissioner’s attention to this ongoing situation.

Documentation is ongoing and it is credible. NGOs, academics, and journalists are scrutinizing PRC government and CCP policy directives and websites. Witnesses are sharing their personal experiences. Rights advocates are collecting, analyzing, and preserving satellite images of detention centers imprisoning civilians and of Muslim cemeteries and mosques that have been leveled or desecrated in what appears to be an ongoing campaign of cultural destruction.

In addition, supply chains tainted with forced labor are being tracked and analyzed. In 2021, the United States enacted the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, underscoring our commitment to combatting forced labor, including in Xinjiang. From June 2022 through July of this year, commodities shipments worth nearly $385 million have been denied entry for violating this law.

Last year, two Uyghur advocacy organizations submitted a criminal complaint in Buenos Aires, Argentina, under the universal jurisdiction provisions of the Argentinian Constitution, and Uyghurs in Türkiye filed a criminal complaint with the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s office accusing PRC officials of committing genocide, crimes against humanity, torture, and rape in Xinjiang.

But more can and must be done internationally to shed light on and respond to these grave concerns. In this respect, the UN plays a particularly important role as the custodian and embodiment of a series of important post-war understandings agreed to by the nations of the world—nations that committed not to remain silent when atrocities are committed.

With this in mind, we encourage the High Commissioner’s Office to continue its investigation into this situation, even as the PRC’s patterns of oppression evolve. We are particularly concerned about the dramatic increase in prosecutions with long-term sentences in Xinjiang, including the reported transfer of some detainees from so-called “reeducation” or “vocational training” centers to formal prisons.

PRC law enforcement statistics indicate that incarcerations in Xinjiang remain at elevated levels compared to the period before 2014 when the so-called “strike hard” campaign targeting Muslims began. Data from human rights groups indicate that, of the more than 15 thousand Xinjiang residents whose sentences are known, more than 95% of those convicted—often on vague charges like “separatism” or “endangering state security”—have received sentences of 5 to 20 years and, in some cases, life. Outside of these forms of detention, many in Xinjiang have reportedly had their documents confiscated and movement restricted, with considerable numbers assigned to forced labor. Many more are simply missing or disappeared. Children with detained parents have reportedly been placed in difficult circumstances, with some taken away to boarding schools or orphanages.

Xinjiang law enforcement officials announced earlier this year that new prosecutions under the “strike hard” campaign continued at least through the end of 2022, the last date for which official data are available. These data suggest that these new prosecutions may well have numbered over 10 or 15 thousand. Xi Jinping also reiterated the policies most recently when he was in Urumqi on August 27. He urged officials there to conserve “hard-won social stability” and to “more deeply promote the Sinicization of Islam and effectively control so-called ‘illegal’ religious activities.”

Given these continued abuses, we strongly endorse the recommendations in the previous High Commissioner’s report. These include the demand that the PRC release all individuals arbitrarily detained within its borders. It must end its intimidation and coercion around the world, through its ongoing transnational repression. For the business community, OHCHR recommends enhanced due diligence, transparent reporting, and strengthening human rights risk assessments. And for the international community, OHCHR recommends countries refrain from refouling to the PRC Uyghurs and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups who have fled Xinjiang.

In response to the human rights situation in Xinjiang, the United States has independently, and in coordination with others, taken concrete actions to help deprive bad actors of resources and hinder their ability to carry on with business as usual. Since 2020, we have designated 12 persons connected with serious human rights abuses in Xinjiang under the Global Magnitsky sanctions program and imposed visa restrictions on seven PRC and CCP officials for their involvement in gross violations of human rights in Xinjiang. In March 2021, we coordinated with the EU, the UK, and Canada to impose sanctions on several additional individuals and entities.

In addition, we have imposed export controls and import restrictions on entities associated with abuses in Xinjiang and issued withhold release orders on products from Xinjiang that are produced with forced labor. We’ve issued a Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory to highlight the heightened risk to businesses with supply chains and investments in Xinjiang given the number of entities complicit in forced labor and other human rights abuses there and throughout China.

While it remains challenging to create pathways to justice for the PRC’s atrocities in Xinjiang, the High Commissioner’s assessment offers a solid foundation for further actions. We should not stand idly by or be silent or bow to PRC pressure to look away. The United States has chosen to call these atrocities by their name: crimes against humanity and genocide. As

these atrocities continue, the world must stand firm against them both in word and in deed.

The United States reaffirms its support for those who bravely speak out despite the threat of retaliation. We will continue to work with the international community to promote accountability for those responsible for atrocities and human rights violations and abuses wherever they occur, including within the PRC.

Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future