Washington, DC - In waning hours of the Trump Administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – decorated military officer, former congressman, exceptional Secretary of State – leveled what may be the strongest, most widely supported, enduring charge against Communist China: Deliberate genocide.

Beyond China’s overt and covert attacks on Western values and international security, abusing rule of law, manipulating public opinion, economic data, currency, and multilateral trade regimes, hatching and spreading the deadly COVID-19 virus, Pompeo laid out the case for China’s unconscionable genocide against religious minorities, most egregiously millions of minority Muslims in Western China.

Notably, Muslims are not the only religion systematically, grotesquely, officially persecuted for their faith. Christians, Buddhists, Taoists, and other minorities are mercilessly persecuted by the Communist Government, which to now has been wholly unaccountable to world opinion.

As Pompeo affirmed, a wide swath of evidence from victims, relatives, journalists, international human rights groups, and incontrovertible technical data show 11 million Uighur Muslims have been targeted, one million forced into concentration camps for communist “deprogramming” or “reeducation.” 

At the direction of China’s Communist government – the same one that bankrolled Biden family members – Chinese Muslims today suffer interminable physical imprisonment, physical abuse, forced abortions, forced sterilization, and unapologetic denial of rights found in our Bill of Rights, from free speech, worship, assembly, travel, and peaceful protest, to self-defense, confrontation of accusers, access to a fair trial, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. 

With Muslims, Christians have been placed in fear, harassed, imprisoned, churches burned, theology changed, and personally martyred for unwillingness to deny their faith. Not surprisingly, when a 2015 Gallup poll asked Chinese citizens their views, 90 percent averred atheism. Fear, persecution, imprisonment, brain washing, and death are powerful incentives for denying faith. 

What Pompeo had done, however, is bigger than meets the eye. By accusing China of genocide, a label that will likely be repeated by US allies, examined, and confirmed by non-partisan international human rights groups in time, he has brought China within reach of the “Genocide Convention” of 1948 (“Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”).

This is a serious development, with downstream legal effects for China – no matter the Biden Administration’s affection, connection, or personal dependence on China. 

The Genocide Convention, at Article II, makes clear that “genocide” is “any of the following acts to destroy, in whole or in part… a religious group” by “killing,” “causing serious bodily or mental harm,” “inflicting … conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction,” “imposing measures intended to prevent births,” or “forcibly transferring children of that group to another group.” China has done each of the above, most numerously to Muslims, but consistently to all faiths.

Communist China’s goal is to isolate, intimidate, and eradicate religious faith – and if they cannot do this by mind-control and “deprogramming,” then to isolate, intimidate, and eradicate all those who believe. The specter is horrific, and the “tell it like it is” Trump State Department is making clear – it is real.

Pompeo is saying what all know, and apologists for China and Communism never say. But the move will cast a long shadow over China, one they cannot outrun. Article IV states: “Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated … shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.” The sweep of that provision raises stakes for China’s rulers.

Lest some argue China is outside the Convention, it is not. Among the 151 treaty signatories, China ratified it in 1949. Even as China seeks to dodge accountability, as they do for COVID-19, truth is louder than communist denials. Recent reports compare China’s offenses against religious minorities with acts perpetrated by Nazi Germany. 

So, here we are. Beyond declaring – finally – that Communist China is perpetuating “crimes against humanity,” evils so identifiable, systematic, egregious and unforgivable that they amount to genocide, and beyond setting up potential prosecutions, however unlikely, this move triggers three other events.

First, this move reminds the world – as President Ronald Reagan once did, to lasting effect and against advice of his own team – that there are still “evil empires” afoot. In Reagan’s day, the most powerful, inhumane, and ambitious communist regime was the Soviet Union. Today, it is China.

Second, this move forces incoming President Biden’s hand, making him own up to facts, stand up for liberty, or side with an overtly inexcusable, anti-religious, inhumane and cruel communist regime. The truth is hard to avert, once someone points it out, steps up to shine a light, making clear the untruth.

Finally, his move reinforces what the past four years have been, with respect to China. They have been an ugly coming out. They have been the bright light of a liberty-loving nation – saying enough. They have not been “business as usual,” or anything like the Obama-Biden years. Mike Pence did not fly to Beijing with his son to surreptitiously craft private contracts, with a nod, wink, and lasting stink. 

Bottom line: The world is different because of moves like this, bold and real, credible and paradigm-shifting, powerful and patriotic, but wedded to truth, serving all humanity, showcasing fidelity to universal principles, including human rights, freedom of worship, and humanity’s rejection of genocide. 

Thank you, Secretary Pompeo, and wider Trump Team, for speaking truth to Communist power. May we all take heart from your example. May we follow that example, wherever it leads. 

Robert Charles is a former assistant secretary of state for President George W. Bush, former naval intelligence officer and litigator. He served in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses, as congressional counsel for five years, and wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003) and “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), the latter on WWII vets in a Maine town.