July 24, 2020 | Washington Examiner

To stop China’s crimes against humanity, hit its pride and pocketbook

July 24, 2020 | Washington Examiner

To stop China’s crimes against humanity, hit its pride and pocketbook

As the world endures the ravages of COVID-19, it also finds itself confronting an increasingly hostile China bent on warping established human rights norms to advance its malign ambitions. These efforts have taken the form of forced mass sterilization of ethnic minorities at concentration camps in the Xinjiang province, as well as the arrests of hundreds of peaceful protesters in Hong Kong for violating a newly imposed national security law.

Western democracies, several of which find themselves confronting civil unrest, are the only thing standing in China’s way as it seeks to rewrite the rules-based order and redefine what it means to be a responsible member of the international community. To that end, the United States and its allies have a responsibility to confront Beijing over its rampant human rights abuses and, to the extent possible, undermine China’s ability to leverage its economic might to silence would-be critics.

What’s more, as consumers demand a greater focus on corporate social responsibility, the private sector faces a stark choice of its own: Cut ties with any factories involved in perpetuating human rights abuses in China or maintain the status quo and risk complicity in Beijing’s atrocities.

New evidence from Xinjiang shows that Beijing is seeking to exterminate Uighur Muslims. Ground-breaking research by the Associated Press and German expert Adrian Zenz revealed disturbing details last week about forced abortions, birth control, and sterilizations. The research further documented a nearly 84% drop in natural birthrates over a three-year period in Xinjiang, suggesting that China’s methodical attempt to eliminate this “undesirable” population has been shockingly effective.

As events in Xinjiang have taken a dark turn, so, too, has the situation in Hong Kong, where Chinese authorities wasted little time arresting hundreds of peaceful protesters, including a 15-year-old girl whose only crime was to wave a Hong Kong independence flag. Libraries in Hong Kong have now prohibited patrons from accessing books written by human rights activists, and various pro-democracy groups have also been forced to disband and relocate overseas, much to Beijing’s delight.

While the U.S., United Kingdom, European Union, Japan, Australia, and Taiwan all decried Beijing’s power grab, China leveraged its position at the United Nations Human Rights Council to rally support from 53 nations, almost all of which are dictatorships and human rights abusers themselves. In doing so, Beijing secured a veneer of legitimacy for its crackdown while underscoring the impotence of what should be the most influential, global human rights body.

What’s more, China maintained its tier-three status in the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report for 2020, a designation reserved for the world’s worst offenders. This means that China fails to meet even the most basic standards of trafficking enforcement. Beyond documenting atrocities in Xinjiang, the report revealed that China has expanded its campaign of terror into other provinces, often targeting other minorities, and “sought the coerced repatriation and internment of religious and ethnic minorities living abroad.”

Since Beijing seeks impunity by flexing its geoeconomic muscles, the West’s response should focus on harnessing its economic might, which far exceeds that of China and its UNHRC accomplices. These efforts should include a more-robust sanctions regime, continued efforts to investigate Chinese abuses, incentivizing supply-chain diversification, and undermining China’s debt-trap diplomacy.

U.S. plans to sanction Chinese officials perpetrating abuses in Xinjiang have frustrated Beijing, as has the Senate’s passage of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which targets people who violate the territory’s autonomy. The U.S. should go further in ratcheting up sanctions pressure on any Chinese government entities involved in directing these human rights atrocities, as well as companies whose equipment enables such misdeeds. If the U.S. can coordinate these efforts with partners, Beijing may find itself facing disputes with all of its major trading partners, which could damage China’s economy. Such moves could also push previously neutral countries into our orbit, many of which likely harbor private concerns about China’s actions but have been wary of aligning themselves with the West.

Congress can also raise the temperature by holding China publicly accountable for its abuses, directing U.S. agencies to work with foreign counterparts to undercut China’s debt-trap coercion, and holding high-profile, bipartisan, public meetings with Hong Kongers and Uighur dissidents. Congress should also consider symbolic gestures such as renaming the street outside of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., after Chinese activists and granting asylum to Uighurs who have fled Xinjiang.

Lastly, the private sector must do its part, particularly in the face of reports that Uighurs were transferred from concentration camps to factories that produce goods for dozens of global brands, including Apple and Nike. At a time when the U.S. government, shareholders, and customers are monitoring corporations’ willingness to align their practices with social-justice concerns, CEOs must seriously consider transitioning their supply chains out of China. To that end, the administration and its partners in Southeast Asia should devise creative ways to incentivize such transitions. In the aftermath of last year’s NBA fiasco, responsible CEOs should also avoid kowtowing to Beijing, which will be all too eager to use their businesses as proverbial shields against U.S. action on human rights.

The West has finally caught a glimpse of a future world with China at the helm. At this point, it is clear that preventing such a reality will require hitting Beijing’s pride, as well as its pocketbook.

Craig Singleton, a former U.S. diplomat and national security expert, is an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He contributes to FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power.

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Issues:

China International Organizations Sanctions and Illicit Finance