Xinjiang human rights crisis called to attention in US-China relations seminar

China experts in the US discussed the state of relations between the two world powers

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Screencap of the expert panel. (National Committee on U.S.-China Relations)

Screencap of the expert panel. (National Committee on U.S.-China Relations)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The arbitrary detention of over one million Muslim minority citizens in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region became central to discussions in a U.S.-China relations seminar last week.

Non-profit organization the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations on May 21 invited several former White House officials and China experts to discuss the current state of relations between the two world powers.

Chair of the organization Carla Hills hosted the event, which gathered former officials Kenneth Lieberthal, Evan Medeiros, Douglas Paal, Daniel Russel, and recent assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thorton.

The central thread of the experts’ discussion became the “re-education camps” of China’s Xinjiang Province, where authorities are accused of arbitrarily detaining, beating and torturing over a million Muslim minorities in efforts to “Sinicize” the region.

Half of the panel suggested the U.S. had a responsibility to act and levy some kind of protest against Beijing, whereas the other half said it should allow Beijing to decide the urgency of its own national security issues.

Brookings Institute senior fellow Kenneth Lieberthal said he believes there is little the U.S. can do about the situation, especially considering the majority of Han Chinese reportedly support Beijing’s measures.

New York University professor Jerome Cohen said in response to Liberthal after the dialogue that the U.S. has the power to do many things.

During an interview with Voice of America, Cohen said the U.S. must shoulder its moral responsibility and fully expose the atrocities being committed in Xinjiang. Han Chinese support Beijing’s actions because they either do not receive the full account of what is happening, he said, or because the government exacerbates the threats Muslims pose to the larger community.


A video of the May 21 dialogue. (National Committee on U.S.-China Relations)