WASHINGTON - Protection of human rights in China has been on a "downward trajectory, by virtually every measure" since President Xi Jinping assumed power in 2012, a U.S. congressional study concluded Wednesday.
The report by the politically bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China accused Beijing of embarking on the "unprecedented" repression of ethnic minorities, saying that such abuses "may constitute crimes against humanity."
"Of particular concern is the mass, arbitrary internment of as many as one million or more Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in 'political reeducation' camps in western China," the commission's leaders, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith, said in the report's summary.
The two lawmakers contended that the Communist Party "unflinchingly continues to preserve its monopoly on domestic political power through state-sponsored repression, surveillance, indoctrination and brutality."
Rubio and Smith added, "We see an ascendant and increasingly aggressive China, seeking to take center stage in the world, and in so doing, determined to shape new global norms on development, trade, the internet, and even human rights. All the while, the fundamental authoritarian character of China’s political system remains the same."
The U.S. report follows a similar assessment by the United Nations, which in August said that allegations of large-scale arbitrary detentions of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities were "deeply disturbing."
The congressional report says the Chinese ruling party is "trying to redefine'' human rights and "basic human dignity.''
"China's authoritarianism at home directly threatens our freedoms as well as our most deeply held values and national interests,'' Rubio and Smith said.
The report also attacked Beijing for its control of Hong Kong, citing the "continued erosion" of the city's autonomy.
The study also said Chinese authorities also have imposed repressive policies in Tibet, including "extensive and intrusive surveillance, strict regulations and rules to restrict Tibetans' religious and cultural rights."
The commission proposed legislation urging President Donald Trump, who has often praised Xi but also engaged in an escalating trade war with China, to condemn "gross violations" of human rights in the Xinjiang region, where the U.N. says the Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities are being held in arbitrary detention. The measure calls for Trump to press Xi to immediately close the "political reeducation camps.''
Chinese authorities have denied the existence of the internment camps, but said that petty criminals are sent to "employment training centers." The Xinjiang government this week revised legislation to officially permit the use of "education and training centers'' to reform "people influenced by extremism.''
The centers have been directed to teach the Mandarin language, occupational and legal education, as well as "ideological education, psychological rehabilitation and behavior correction."