Xi Jinping, left, and Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS
Xi Jinping, left, and Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS

Much of the focus on China in recent months has been over the coronavirus that originated there late in 2019. But that has hardly slowed Beijing’s assault on fundamental freedoms and human rights, from the brutal repression of the Uighurs to choking off Hong Kong’s limited autonomy.

Congress has acted with admirable alacrity and unanimity to pass tough bills allowing for the imposition of sanctions against the Chinese officials and enterprises behind these outrages. It is now for President Donald Trump, who has shown little enthusiasm so far for tangling with President Xi Jinping over human rights, to use the tools Congress has placed at his disposal to show Beijing that its transgressions have consequences.

The new national security law for Hong Kong is the most recent and best publicised example of Xi’s repressive, nationalistic policies. The measure severely erodes Hong Kong’s civil and political freedoms, undermining the “one country, two systems” model that China pledged when the British colony reverted to Beijing’s rule in 1997. One of the first arrests under the new law was of a protester with a pro-independence flag, the display of which is now a criminal offence.

But while Hong Kong has garnered the most attention in the West, it is hardly the sole, or even the worst, of the Chinese government’s systemic violations of elemental human rights. These are among other recent developments:

  • A report from the Jamestown Foundation has exposed chilling details of official measures to shrink the Uighur population, including sterilisation and forced abortions.
  • US customs and border protection officials in New York seized a large shipment of weaves and other beauty products that officials suspect were made out of human hair from people locked inside the Xinjiang prison system.
  • More than 50 independent UN experts have called for a special session of the UN Human Rights Council to establish an independent mechanism to monitor the human rights situation in China.
  • A San Francisco mobile security firm reported  that China’s huge surveillance efforts in Xinjiang, which have expanded to include measures such as collecting blood samples, voice prints, facial scans and other personal data, began as early as 2013 with a hacking campaign that planted malware into the cellphones of Uighurs and Tibetans around the world. /New York, July 1 

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