US House passes Uighur Bill urging sanctions on Chinese officials

The Uighur Act of 2019 condemns Beijing’s “gross human rights violations”

  • By AFP NewsDecember 4, 2019 05:11 GMT
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The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation Tuesday that would apply sanctions against senior Chinese officials, triggering a furious response from Beijing.Why advertise with us

The legislation adds to tensions between the two superpowers just as they are locked in negotiations to finalize a “phase one” deal to resolve their protracted trade war.

Washington had already angered Beijing when President Donald Trump signed legislation supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, prompting China earlier this week to impose sanctions on US-based NGOs and suspend future visits by US warships to the semi-autonomous territory.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused Chinese authorities of a repressive crackdown on minority Uighurs Photo: AFP / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP

The Uighur Act of 2019 condemns Beijing’s “gross human rights violations” linked to the crackdown in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where upwards of one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are believed to be held in re-education camps.

The measure, which passed 407 to 1, is a stronger version of the bill that cleared the Senate in September. The texts must be reconciled into one bill for Trump’s signature.

The latest House measure condemns the arbitrary mass detention of Uighurs and calls for closure of the re-education camps where, according to rights groups and US lawmakers, they have been held and abused.

The bill notably urges Trump to slap sanctions on Chinese officials behind the Uighur policy, including Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party chief for Xinjiang.

Chinese re-education camp
The outer wall of a complex that includes what is believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained in Xinjiang Photo: AFP / GREG BAKER Greg Baker/AFP

“Today the human dignity and human rights of the Uighur community are under threat from Beijing’s barbarous actions, which are an outrage to the collective conscience of the world,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her colleagues shortly before the vote.

Congress “is taking a critical step to counter Beijing’s horrific human rights abuses against Uighurs,” she said.

“America is watching.”

Pelosi lashed out at Chinese authorities for orchestrating a crackdown that includes pervasive mass state surveillance, solitary confinement, beatings, forced sterilization “and other forms of torture.”

Communist Party chief for Xinjiang
The bill urges Trump to slap sanctions on Chinese officials behind the Uighur policy, including Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party chief for Xinjiang Photo: AFP / GREG BAKER Greg Baker/AFP

Beijing called on the United States to prevent the bill from becoming law and warned — without elaborating — that it would respond “according to the development of the situation.”

The bill “deliberately denigrates China’s human rights situation in Xinjiang, wantonly smears China’s efforts to eliminate extremism and combat terrorism (and) viciously attacks the Chinese government’s policy of governing Xinjiang,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.

Chinese re-education camp
Graphic on ‘re-education’ camps in China’s Xinjiang region, according to research by Washington-based East Turkistan National Awakening Movement. Photo: AFP / Laurence CHU Laurence Chu/AFP

The Chinese state-owned tabloid The Global Times quoted experts as saying Beijing will take “strong countermeasures” including releasing an “unreliable entity list” that could sanction and restrict some US entities in the country and impose sanctions on US officials.

Last month two huge leaks of official documents offered more details about China’s network of internment camps in Xinjiang.

Government papers obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) outlined the need to prevent escape, double lock doors and constantly monitor detainees — even during toilet breaks.

The New York Times reported, based on internal papers it had obtained, that Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered officials to act with “absolutely no mercy” against separatism and extremism in Xinjiang in 2014 following a deadly knife attack blamed on separatists.

Rights groups and witnesses accuse China of forcibly trying to draw Uighurs away from their Islamic customs and integrate them into the majority Han culture.

After initially denying the camps’ existence, Beijing cast the facilities as “vocational education centers” where “students” learn Mandarin and job skills in an effort to steer them away from religious extremism, terrorism and separatism.

The House bill would require the State Department to produce a report within one year on the crackdown in Xinjiang.

And it would require the Commerce Department to ban US exports to entities in Xinjiang that are known to be used in the detention or surveillance of Muslim minorities, including facial recognition technology.

Thomas Massie, the sole member of Congress to vote against both the Hong Kong and Uighur bills, said he did so because he considered the issues to be Chinese domestic affairs.

“When our government meddles in the internal affairs of foreign countries, it invites those governments to meddle in our affairs,” he said in a tweet.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio warned that China’s government and Communist Party are “working to systematically wipe out the ethnic and cultural identities” of Uighurs.

Advocacy organization The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), said the US action “paves the way for other countries to act.”

“Each and every speech on the House floor tonight was a forceful indictment of crimes against humanity,” said UHRP executive director Omer Kanat.

“Tonight’s action gives Uyghurs hope.”

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U.S. House approves Uyghur bill demanding sanctions on senior Chinese officials and export bans

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The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would require the Trump administration to toughen its response to China’s crackdown on its Muslim minority, drawing swift condemnation from Beijing.

The Uyghur Act of 2019 is a stronger version of a bill that angered Beijing when it passed the Senate in September. It calls on President Donald Trump to impose sanctions for the first time on a member of China’s powerful politburo, even as he seeks a deal with Beijing to end a trade war buffeting the global economy.

Just last week, Trump signed into law legislation supporting anti-government protesters in Hong Kong despite angry objections from China.

The Uyghur bill, which passed by 407-1 in the Democratic-controlled House, requires the U.S. president to condemn abuses against Muslims and call for the closure of mass detention camps in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

It calls for sanctions against senior Chinese officials who it says are responsible and specifically names Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, who, as a politburo member, is in the upper echelons of China’s leadership.

The revised bill still has to be approved by the Republican-controlled Senate before being sent to Trump. The White House has yet to say whether Trump would sign or veto the bill, which contains a provision allowing the president to waive sanctions if he determines that to be in the national interest.

In a statement on Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry called the bill a malicious attack against China and a serious interference in the country’s internal affairs.

“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,” said the statement, attributed to the ministry’s spokeswoman, Hua Chunying.

China has consistently denied any mistreatment of Uyghurs and says the camps are providing vocational training. It has warned of retaliation “in proportion” if Chen were targeted.

The White House and the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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China responded on Monday to the Hong Kong legislation by saying U.S. military ships and aircraft would not be allowed to visit Hong Kong, and announced sanctions against several U.S. non-government organizations.

Analysts say China’s reaction to passage of the Uyghur bill could be stronger, although some doubted it would go so far as imposing visa bans on the likes of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has called China’s treatment of Uyghurs “the stain of the century” and has been repeatedly denounced by Beijing.

Global Times, a tabloid published by the official People’s Daily newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, tweeted on Tuesday that Beijing would soon release a so-called unreliable entities list imposing sanctions against those who harm China’s interests.

It reported that China was expediting the process for the list because the U.S. House bill would “harm Chinese firms’ interests,” and that “relevant” U.S. entities would be part of Beijing’s list.

’MODERN-DAY CONCENTRATION CAMPS’

Republican U.S. Representative Chris Smith called China’s actions in “modern-day concentration camps” in Xinjiang “audaciously repressive,” involving “mass internment of millions on a scale not seen since the Holocaust.”

“We cannot be silent. We must demand an end to these barbaric practices,” Smith said, adding that Chinese officials must be held accountable for “crimes against humanity.”

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called China’s treatment of the Uyghurs “an outrage to the collective conscience of the world,” adding that “America is watching.”

Chris Johnson, a China expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said passage of the bill could lead to a further blurring of lines between the trade issue and the broader deteriorating China-U.S. relationship, which Beijing in the past has tended to keep separate.

“I think there’s a sort of piling-on factor here that the Chinese are concerned about,” he said.

Trump said on Monday the Hong Kong legislation did not make trade negotiations with China easier, but he still believed Beijing wanted a deal.

He said on Tuesday, however, that an agreement might have to wait until after the November 2020 U.S. presidential election in which he is seeking a second term.

Johnson said he did not think passage of the Uyghur act would cause the delay, but added: “It would be another dousing of kindling with fuel.”

The House bill requires the president to submit to Congress within 120 days a list of officials responsible for the abuses and to impose sanctions on them under the Global Magnitsky Act, which provides for visa bans and asset freezes.

The bill also requires the secretary of state to submit a report on abuses in Xinjiang, to include assessments of the numbers held in re-education and forced labour camps. United Nations experts and activists say at least 1 million Uyghurs and members of other largely Muslim minority groups have been detained in the camps.

It also effectively bans the export to China of items that can be used for surveillance of individuals, including facial and voice-recognition technology.

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Rights groups voice "real concern" about detention of Uighur Muslims in China

A leading Brussels-based human rights group has voiced concern about ethnic minority groups, most Uyghur Muslims, in China.

Leaked documents about Chinese detention camps are said to dramatically contradict government claims they are voluntary job training centres.

The classified documents, which have been broadcast by Sky TV, appear to confirm the testimony of many former detainees that they are centres for forced ideological and behavioural re-education.

More than a million people from ethnic minority groups, most Uighur Muslims, are in the camps in the far western Xinjiang region. Uighurs are a Turkic minority of about 10 million with their own customs and language.

China, though, has dismissed the leak as a “fabrication and fake news”.  A Chinese government spokesman said religious freedom and personal freedom of people in the camps is “fully respected”.

He said that “since the terror crackdown started in Xinjiang there has not been a single terrorist incident in the past three years”.

However,the documents leaked to a consortium of international journalists – including the Associated Press news agency – detail a strategy to lock up minorities in order to change their beliefs and even their language.

To prevent escapes they stipulate double-locked doors, watch towers and a huge video surveillance operation with no blind spots. Artificial intelligence and mass surveillance technology is also being used on a large scale, with computers issuing the names of tens of thousands of people for interrogation or detention in just one week.

Commenting on the findings, Willy Fautre, head of Human Rights Without Frontiers, based in Brussels, told this website, “Xi Jinping is the new Mao and the so-called ‘sinicization’ campaign is nothing else than a new Cultural Revolution implemented with all the technological weapons of the 21st century that Beijing can use to track all those who need to be ‘reeducated politically’.”

“Over one million Uighurs are deprived of their freedom of movement and kept behind barbed wires for an indefinite time until the brainwashing is successful. The objective of the sinicization is not the revival of the ancestral Chinese culture but Communist political correctness, the choking of the people’s opium and the cultural genocide of the Uighur Muslims.”

Further comment came from Marco Respinti, Director-in-Charge of Bitter Winter, a magazine on religious liberty and human rights in China who said, “The leaked videos document what we all know and China, and its allies, pretend to hide. Xinjiang – that Uyghur prefer to call East Turkestan – is filled with detention camps where people are treated horribly. Indeed, Xinjiang itself is becoming a huge open-air detention camp, where people are surveilled in every single movement through highly sophisticated technology.

“These videos seem to date mostly back to 2017. But reality hasn’t changed, as we at Bitter Winter documented with the publication of the first and so far the only video from inside one of those camps [here is the video] where up to 3 million Uyghur (as recent researches say), plus thousand and thousand of other Turkic people, are unlawfully detained and severely ill-treated just because they are believers and because of their ethnicity. China has tried first to deny the existence of these camps.

“Secondly, when it couldn’t do it any more due to evidence, it changed its communication strategy saying that camps are professional school to “re-educate” terrorists. As a matter of fact, there the Chinese communist regime is for sure re-educating people -with terror, and to Communist ideology. As to the so-called “professional schools”, among detained people there are also accomplished professionals, sometimes even retired… So what?… Indeed, those camps are just are prison of the worst kind, and thy should not be in place. In recent weeks, after The New York Times and other published evidence of what is going in Xinjiang no one can pretend not to know any longer.

“This situation must stop, now. The international community has no excuse: it must act.”


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Rights groups condemn China over “torture” of religious minorities


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‘America is watching’: US House passes Uighur bill urging sanctions on Chinese officials

4 December 2019 09:23 AFP3 min read

The US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to toughen Washington’s position against China regarding its treatment of minority Uighurs, calling on President Donald Trump to apply sanctions against senior Chinese officials.

The Uighur Act of 2019 condemns Beijing’s “gross human rights violations” linked to the crackdown in the western region of Xinjiang, where as many as one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are being held in re-education camps.

uighur act

Photo: C-Span.

The measure, which passed 407 to 1, is a stronger version of the bill that cleared the Senate in September. The two versions must be reconciled into one bill that gets sent to Trump’s desk.

The vote is sure to draw China’s ire. Beijing has already threatened retaliation against Washington for Trump signing legislation last week supporting Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters, just as the world’s top two economies edge towards a trade truce.

Tom Cotton@SenTomCotton

A string of terror attacks hit Xinjiang province in 2014.

Instead of bringing the perpetrators to justice, the Chinese Communist Party adopted the tactics of terror themselves. They used the attacks as an opportunity to stamp out all dissent.30522:47 – 3 Dec 2019Twitter Ads information and privacy222 people are talking about this

The latest House measure condemns the mass arbitrary detainment of Uighurs and calls for closure of the re-education camps where they have been held and abused, according to rights groups and US lawmakers.

The bill notably urges Trump to slap sanctions on Chinese officials behind the Uighur policy, including Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party chief for Xinjiang.

“Today the human dignity and human rights of the Uighur community are under threat from Beijing’s barbarous actions, which are an outrage to the collective conscience of the world,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her colleagues shortly before the vote.

Congress “is taking a critical step to counter Beijing’s horrific human rights abuses against Uighurs,” she said.

“America is watching.”

Rep. Jim McGovern@RepMcGovern · 4 Dec 2019Replying to @RepMcGovern

2/ In the last year, Chinese authorities have expanded their network of mass internment camps, where it is now estimated that 1.8 million or more #Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims have been involuntarily detained.

Rep. Jim McGovern@RepMcGovern

3/ This is a systematic, widespread, and shocking violation of basic human rights for which the Government of China must be held accountable. The UIGHUR Act is an essential update to U.S. policy in response to human rights abuses in #Xinjiang.38802:24 – 4 Dec 2019Twitter Ads information and privacy167 people are talking about this

Pelosi lashed out at Chinese authorities for orchestrating a repressive crackdown that includes pervasive mass state surveillance, solitary confinement, beatings, forced sterilization “and other forms of torture.”

Rights groups and witnesses accuse China of forcibly trying to draw Uighurs away from their Islamic customs and integrate them into the majority Han culture.

After initially denying their existence, Beijing now defends the camps, which it calls “vocational education centers,” as a necessary measure to counter religious extremism and terrorism.

The House bill would require the State Department to produce a report within one year on the crackdown in Xinjiang.

xinjiang camp detention

File photo posted by the Xinjiang Judicial Administration to its WeChat account. File photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration.

And it would require the Commerce Department to ban US exports to entities in Xinjiang that are known to be used in the detention or surveillance of Muslim minorities, including facial recognition technology.

Republican Marco Rubio, a sponsor of the legislation in the US Senate, warned that China’s government and Communist Party “is working to systematically wipe out the ethnic and cultural identities” of Uighurs.

He applauded the House passage and said he looked forward to getting a reconciled bill to Trump’s desk.


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Congress Condemns China Over Brutal Crackdown on the Muslim Minority

Congress Condemns China Over Brutal Crackdown on the Muslim MinorityCongress overwhelmingly approved a bill Tuesday aimed at pressuring China over a brutal mass crackdown on ethnic Muslims in the far west of the country.SharePauseMuteCurrent Time 0:19/Duration 0:24Loaded: 100.00% FullscreenDECEMBER 4, 2019

(WASHINGTON) — Congress overwhelmingly approved a bill Tuesday aimed at pressuring China over a brutal mass crackdown on ethnic Muslims in the far west of the country, legislation that follows a similar measure over human rights abuses in Hong Kong that angered the Chinese government.

The House of Representatives voted 407-1 to approve the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, which has already passed the Senate.

The legislation condemns the detention of more than 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other minorities in so-called reeducation camps, where they are subjected to political indoctrination, torture, beatings, and food deprivation, as well as denial of religious and linguistic freedom.

It would require the State Department to evaluate whether Chinese officials would meet the criteria for sanctions for their roles in the crackdown in the Xinjian region.

“The Chinese Government and Communist Party is working to systematically wipe out the ethnic and cultural identities of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of the backers of the legislation. “Today, Congress took another important step to hold Chinese officials accountable for egregious and ongoing human rights abuses.”

Last month, Congress passed — and President Donald Trump signed — legislation supporting anti-government protests in Hong Kong. China said Monday that it will suspend U.S. military ship and aircraft visits to the semi-autonomous city and sanction several American pro-democracy and human rights groups in response to the move.

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Surviving China’s Uighur camps