The People’s Republic of China’s oppression of the Uighur Muslims is one of the most repugnant human rights abuses in modern history. A regime that engages in government-sponsored genocide has no place on the international stage, which is why I have introduced legislation that further strengthens conditions placed on the PRC’s participation in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercise. Until the PRC meets these conditions and Beijing is held accountable for its actions, there is no justification for the nearly two dozen participating nations to allow China’s inclusion in the exercise.
It is bizarre that the Chinese Navy was ever allowed to participate in an exercise that could showcase assets and platforms that could one day be used against it. Thankfully, the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act included language from Sen. Ted Cruz excluding China from RIMPAC until it ceases its island-building activities in the South China Sea, removes all weapons from these man-made islands, and establishes a consistent four-year track record for taking actions to stabilize the Asia-Pacific.
Sadly, the PRC’s aggressive behavior has only intensified. In the last few months alone, the world has seen the PRC breach Taiwanese airspace with military aircraft, threatening to engage in war should Taiwan exert its independence, and claim that the Taiwanese military “won’t stand a chance” should the PRC choose to invade the island nation. Given the PRC’s recent behavior, it is only right that we should include provisions based on the ongoing genocide against the Uighur Muslims.
According to some estimates, the PRC is detaining more than 2 million Uighurs and other minority Muslims in concentration camps where they are subjected to horrific abuses, including rape, forced labor, and torture. In the province of Xinjiang, a majority Uighur region, the Chinese government has slashed Uighur birthrates through forced sterilization and abortions. Due to these measures, the province saw birth rates drop 24% in 2019, while the rates in the Uighur regions of Hotan and Kashgar plummeted by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018.
The PRC’s actions have made it clear that its goal is to eliminate the Uighurs. A country that engages in the mass extermination of its own people has no place on the international stage and certainly must not be allowed to participate in major military exercises. Furthermore, we should not be giving such an adversary nation the opportunity to learn about our defense operations and those of our allies.
There was a time when the free world stood in defiance of totalitarian regimes that engaged in genocide, human rights abuses, and reckless aggression. Sadly, much of the international community continues to allow China’s behavior to go on unabated due to financial interest, a lack of willpower, or fear of reprisal. The U.S. has historically played an important role by taking a principled stance against aggressive totalitarian regimes. Millions of Americans across our country still see America as the defender of freedom and liberty. Millions of people across the world are also watching to see if America will take a stand and demonstrate leadership against the PRC’s revolting practices. The U.S. must find ways to push back against Chinese aggression at every given opportunity. Including a requirement to end PRC human rights abuses as an additional condition of participating in RIMPAC will send an important message to the PRC that its attempts to remake the world order in its totalitarian image are unacceptable.
*Rep. Scott Franklin represents Florida’s 15th Congressional District and is a former Naval Aviator.