- The House on Tuesday passed legislation condemning human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in China’s autonomous Xinjiang region by an overwhelming 407-1 vote.
- The bill, called The Uighur Act of 2019, also calls for sanctions against senior Chinese officials for their alleged roles in the abuse.
- The legislation now heads to the Senate for a final vote.
- The bill’s passage in the House follows legislation signed by President Donald Trump last week supporting human rights in Hong Kong.
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The House on Tuesday passed bipartisan legislation condemning human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in China’s autonomous Xinjiang region. The bill calls for sanctions against senior Chinese officials for their alleged roles in the abuse.
The bill, called The Uighur Act of 2019, was overwhelmingly supported by a vote of 407-1. Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky was the only one who voted against the measure.
Notably, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who does not usually vote on legislation brought forward, voted yes on the bill.
The legislation, which is a tougher version of a bill passed in September in the Senate, now heads back to the Senate for another vote.
China has been accused of running detention centers in the autonomous western region of Xinjiang. Interviews with people who were held in the camps reveal allegations of beatings and food deprivation, as well as medical experimentation on prisoners.
China has acknowledged the existence of some “reeducation camps” but repeatedly denied any reports of abuse at its facilities.
The region has a population of about 10 million citizens, many of whom are Uighur or other ethnic minorities, and in May, Assistant Secretary of US Defense Randall Schriver said “at least a million but likely closer to 3 million citizens” were detained in these facilities.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination last year called on China to “halt the practice of detaining individuals who have not been lawfully charged, tried, and convicted for a criminal offense in any extra-legal detention center.” The committee also called out China’s practice of racial and ethnic profiling and heavy-handed restrictions that disproportionately target the Uighur community.
Satellite images reviewed by the Washington-based East Turkistan National Awakening Movement earlier this month identified at least 465 detention centers, labor camps, and suspected prisons in Xinjiang.
And a recent leak of classified Chinese government documents known as the “China Cables” laid out a manual for exactly how the detention centers were to operate, from preventing escape by double locking all the doors to using a “points system” based on behavior that is linked “directly to rewards, punishments, and family visits.”
The US has infuriated China with a series of recent legislation
The Uighur bill follows legislation singed by President Donald Trump last week supporting human rights in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was introduced in May by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, requires the State Department to ensure that Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” agreement with China is upheld each year for the US government to continue to afford Hong Kong with a special trade status.
It would also consider sanctions against people involved in human rights abuses against Hong Kong citizens and would ensure visa protections for Hong Kong protesters in the US.
The president also signed a bill introduced by Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon that prohibits US exports of specified police equipment to Hong Kong.
“I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people Hong Kong,” Trump said in a statement after passing the legislation. “They are being enacted in the hope that leaders and representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long-term peace and prosperity for all.”
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said last week that China would “take strong counter-measures” in response to the bill’s signing.
On Monday, China suspended its review of requests made by US military ships and aircraft to visit Hong Kong, and sanctioned several US-based NGOs for supporting protests in Hong Kong.
China’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday condemned the House passage of the Uigher bill, saying that the legislation “smears China’s counter-terrorism and anti-secession work in Xinjiang.”
“China will respond according to the situation,” it said in a statement.