A bill that would require the Trump administration to toughen its stance on China’s crackdown against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The bill, called the Uyghur Act of 2019, calls for President Donald Trump to impose sanctions for the first time on a member of China’s powerful politburo — the policy-making committee of a communist party, according to Reuters.
The Uyghur bill, which passed the Democratic-controlled house by 407-1, is the stronger version of the same bill that passed and reportedly angered Beijing in September.
It would require Trump to condemn the abuse against the Uyghurs and call for the closure of the detention camps set up in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, China. The bill would also call for sanctions against senior Chinese officials responsible for the abuse and specifically names Chen Quanguo, a politburo member and Xinjiang’s Communist Party Secretary.
Even though it’s already been approved by the Democratic-controlled House, the bill would still need to pass the Republican-controlled Senate before it is sent to Trump to sign or veto.
Republican U.S. Representative Chris Smith reportedly called China’s action in “modern-day concentration camps” in Xinjiang “audaciously repressive” involving “mass internment of millions on a scale not seen since the Holocaust.”
Meanwhile, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called China’s treatment of the minority group “an outrage to the collective conscience of the world,” adding that “America is watching.”
“Today the human dignity and human rights of the Uyghur community are under threat from Beijing’s barbarous actions, which are an outrage to the collective conscience of the world,” she added.
The Uyghur Act of 2019 has drawn massive outrage from Beijing. In a statement on Wednesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the bill was “arrogantly discrediting China’s efforts to combat terrorism,” The Guardian reported.
Chinese strongly condemns and opposes the US #Uyghur human rights act that smears China’s counter-terrorism and anti-secession work in #Xinjiang. China will respond according to the situation: Foreign Ministry. pic.twitter.com/b9AlM8saWd
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) December 4, 2019
“We urge the U.S. to immediately correct its mistake, to stop the above bill on Xinjiang from becoming law, to stop using Xinjiang as a way to interfere in China’s domestic affairs,” the statement, which was attributed to the ministry’s spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said. “China will respond accordingly to the development of the situation.”
Global Times, a tabloid run by the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily, quoted Wei Jianguo, a former Chinese vice-minister of commerce and executive deputy director of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, as saying Beijing will take “strong countermeasures” against the Uyghur bill.
Analysts believe the country’s reaction to the Uyghur bill could be stronger, but some doubt it would go as far as imposing visa bans on the likes of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who called China’s treatment of the minority group “the stain of the century.”
On Tuesday, Global Times reportedly tweeted that Beijing would soon release a so-called unreliable entities list and impose sanctions on those who harm China’s interests. It went on to say that China is planning to speed up the process for the list as the U.S. House bill would “harm Chinese firms’ interests,” adding that “relevant” U.S. entities would be on that list.
The news of the bill came days after a leaked document detailed the alleged prisoner-like treatment the Uyghurs suffered in the “re-education camps” set up by the Chinese government.
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