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Biden Appointee: State Department Didn’t Follow Procedure for Uyghur Genocide Determination

A Chinese flag behind razor wire at a detention facility for Uyghurs in Yengisar County, Kashgar Prefecture, Xinjiang (Greg Baker/Contributor/Getty Images)

The Biden administration is currently reviewing the Trump administration’s determination that the Chinese Communist Party’s actions in Xinjiang constitute a genocide, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.N. ambassador-designate, revealed Monday morning. The review is being conducted because the State Department did not follow the proper procedures for the determination, she said.

Following a review formally initiated in December, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo issued his determination that the CCP is committing genocide and crimes against humanity, which is a wider but no less serious category of human-rights abuses.

Thomas-Greenfield, the experienced diplomat whom Joe Biden has nominated to represent the United States at the U.N., made the comments during questioning about her record on China. Senator Marco Rubio asked her if she considered the CCP’s repression of the Uyghur people a genocide:

Thomas-Greenfield: What they’re doing there has been referred to as genocide, and I know that the State Department is reviewing that as we speak. What they’re doing is horrific, and I look forward to seeing the results of the review that’s being done.

Rubio: The State Department issued a designation, I believe, on the president’s last day. So is your understanding that it’s now being reviewed by the State Department to see if that’s appropriate?

Thomas-Greenfield: I think the State Department is reviewing that now because all of the procedures were not followed and I think that they’re looking at that to make sure that they are followed to ensure that that designation is held.

Thomas-Greenfield’s comments are particularly vexing in light of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s comment last week that he agreed with Pompeo’s determination.

Members of the Pompeo team objected to Thomas-Greenfield’s allegation that the genocide determination was concluded according to a flawed process. “The process was followed and any claim otherwise is either uninformed or misleading,” Kelley Currie, a former senior State Department official with direct knowledge of the process, told National Review.

At the time of writing, the State Department had not replied to National Review’s request for comment.

The timing of the determination, the final day of the Trump administration, had attracted criticism from some quarters for boosting Pompeo’s profile ahead of a potential presidential run while leaving the Biden administration to sift through the consequences. But although the process was formally kicked off in December, the Pompeo team had spent the previous two years calling attention to Beijing’s widespread and egregious human-rights abuses in Xinjiang.

In 2019, Pompeo himself referred to mass internment, indiscriminate surveillance, and other practices targeting the Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities as “the stain of the century,” and Robert O’Brien, the former national-security advisor, said in October that they are “something close” to genocide. The tipping point, according to Pompeo’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal explaining the decision, came with the revelations that Party authorities in Xinjiang were systematically sterilizing Uyghur women, an additional qualification for genocide under a 1948 U.N. convention that hadn’t yet been met. “Not every campaign of genocide involves gas chambers or firing squads,” wrote the former secretary of state.

Thomas-Greenfield is not the first Biden official to make such a statement. When asked if the president agrees with the previous administration’s genocide determination, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated, “Well I know that our secretary of state is just about to get confirmed, [and] I know he will be reviewing a number of the decisions and assessments that have been made.”

Psaki continued, “Obviously, the president has spoken before to the horrific treatment of Uyghurs, but I don’t have anything more for you on it.”

Her comments were criticized online, and the National-Security Council had to clean up her statement. A spokesperson with the NSC told the Washington Examiner, “President Biden has called the oppression of the Uighurs a genocide, & he stands against it in the strongest possible terms,” confirming that Biden continues to consider the situation a genocide.

Psaki’s comments were dismissed as one of the gaffes that have come to define her early tenure, but it now appears that she knew exactly what she was talking about.

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