US Bills target China's treatment of Uighurs

The Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate last Wednesday passed the bipartisan Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, which will require the creation of a position in the State Department to focus and report on China's crackdown on, and detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang region.

A second Bill has also been introduced in the House that, if approved, would, among other things, mandate sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for abuses of the ethnic Uighur population, and also "control the exports of Chinese businesses profiting from the mass surveillance and internment of Uighurs in Xinjiang".

Over a million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities of Turkic Muslim origin have been interned in "political re-education" camps.

There are reports of disappearances of Uighur rights advocates, including their families. China denies that the camps are anything but for education and training, and claims that the Uighurs are free to leave.

Last Friday, Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Democrat who is supporting the House Bill, tweeted: "China is currently inflicting physical and psychological torture on its Uighur population, according to numerous reports. These are the precursors to genocide. The United States must stand against human rights abuses wherever they are committed."

The Senate Bill will go to the full Senate for a vote.

Last Wednesday, as the Foreign Relations Committee passed it, Democrat Senator Bob Menendez said: "China's horrific and systematic abuse of its Uighur minority is an affront to all people who value the principles of universal human rights, and Beijing's imposition of systemic mass surveillance in Xinjiang should send a chill down the spine of every person who values humanity, human life, and ethnic, religious and cultural freedom.

"The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has taken an important stand today against President Xi (Jinping) and the Chinese Communist Party's vision of a dystopian authoritarian future for their own people and for the planet."

Republican Senator Marco Rubio said: "It is long overdue to hold Chinese government and Communist Party officials accountable for systemic and egregious human rights abuses against Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang."

The timeline for eventual passage of the Bills and their final texts are unclear.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 26, 2019, with the headline US Bills target China's treatment of Uighurs. Subscribe