State Department Cleans Up Nominee’s Claim on ‘Genocide’ Review

Policy

Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on her nomination to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations on Capitol Hill, January 27, 2021. (Greg Nash/Pool via Reuters)

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, the State Department seemed to clean up comments on the Chinese Communist Party’s genocide of the Uyghur people made by Linda Thomas-Greenfield, President Biden’s nominee for U.N. ambassador.

Thomas-Greenfield, who stated during her confirmation hearing last month that the CCP’s actions targeting the Uyghur people are “horrific,” also said she was waiting for the results of a Biden administration review of the previous administration’s policy determination on the Xinjiang atrocities before labeling the situation a genocide. “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,” she said at the time.

While Thomas-Greenfield held off on endorsing the policy determination that she asserted was under review, she concurred with the evidence that mass atrocities are taking place in Xinjiang, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that they remind her of what she saw during the Rwandan genocide, when she was posted as a diplomat in that country.

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The latest State Department statement seems to refute Thomas-Greenfield’s claim that the Biden administration is reviewing former secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s finding of crimes against humanity and genocide — and her assertion that “all of the procedures were not followed.”

“As Secretary Blinken and Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield have made clear, genocide was committed against Uyghurs in Xinjiang,” wrote a State Department spokesperson on Thursday, in response to National Review’s questions about Thomas-Greenfield’s comments.

But the U.N. ambassador-designate had never actually publicly retracted her claim that the State Department is reviewing the policy, and she had not made clear that she endorsed the genocide determination. For his part, Blinken made clear his view that crimes against humanity and genocide are taking place both during his confirmation hearing and in a press briefing that followed Thomas-Greenfield’s comments, and Biden advocated such a determination during the campaign.

Although the State Department’s comment to NR still elided the question of whether it is reviewing the genocide determination, a congressional aide confirmed that “in communications with the Department, they have not indicated a review actually occurred.”

The department’s comments seem to resolve one significant question about Thomas-Greenfield’s nomination. Ahead of votes on her confirmation next week, Thomas-Greenfield will continue to face questions about a speech that she gave at a Confucius Institute in 2019, which she says she regrets.

The State Department statement goes on to specify that the People’s Republic of China is also perpetrating crimes against humanity against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious groups in Xinjiang and that “these atrocities shock the conscience and must be met with serious consequences.”

“The United States calls upon the leaders of the PRC to immediately release all arbitrarily detained people and abolish the internment camps; to cease enforced sterilizations; to end all torture; and to stop persecuting Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and minority groups in Xinjiang,” the State Department spokesperson said.

It’s a strong statement, and the Biden administration — despite Thomas-Greenfield’s apparent misstep and the White House’s muddled stance on seeking cooperation with Beijing — deserves much credit for holding the line on this crucial issue. That the Biden administration is not actually reviewing the previous State Department leadership’s decision ought to be welcome news for anyone who cares about building a bipartisan consensus to confront Beijing’s barbaric violations of human rights.

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