US House passes bill authorising sanctions against Chinese officials over the mass incarceration of Muslim Uighurs.
US President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation calling for sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for oppressing Uighur Muslims, a source familiar with the matter has revealed, without offering a timeframe for the signing.
The bill, which passed the US House of Representatives and Senate with bipartisan support last month, calls for sanctions against those responsible for the repression of Uighurs and other Muslim groups in China’s Xinjiang province, where the United Nations estimates more than a million Muslims have been detained in camps.
The Chinese embassy in Washington repeated a prior statement, noting that the bill “blatantly smears China’s counterterrorism and deradicalisation measures and seriously interferes in China’s internal affairs,” which China “deplores and firmly opposes”.
“We urge the US to immediately rectify its mistake, stop using Xinjiang-related issues to intervene in China’s internal affairs and refrain from going even further down the wrong path,” the embassy added.
The bill’s progress comes amid growing tensions between Washington and Beijing over the coronavirus pandemic’s origins and China’s move to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong.
China denies mishandling the outbreak and has said the US should stop interfering in Hong Kong and Chinese affairs.
Trump said last week he was not considering imposing sanctions on Chinese President Xi Jinping personally over Beijing’s push to impose the legislation in Hong Kong.
But the Republican president recently ordered his administration to begin eliminating special US treatment for Hong Kong to punish China, and said Washington would also impose sanctions on individuals seen as responsible for “smothering – absolutely smothering – Hong Kong’s freedom.”
The legislation, proposed by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, singles out Xinjiang’s Communist Party secretary, Chen Quanguo, a member of China’s powerful Politburo, as responsible for “gross human rights violations” against Uighurs.
China denies mistreatment and says the camps provide vocational training.
Uighur activists and human rights groups said many of those held are people with advanced degrees and business owners who are influential in their communities and have no need for special education.
People who were in the camps described being subjected to forced political indoctrination, torture and denial of food and medicine, and say they have been prohibited from practising their religion or speaking their language.
While China has denied these accounts, it has refused to allow independent inspections.