Trump Signs Bill to Sanction Chinese Officials for Persecuting Uyghur Muslims Amid Bolton Allegation
Should the U.S. sanction Chinese officials responsible for the persecution & mass internment of Muslim minorities?
by Countable | 6.17.20
UPDATE - 6/17/20: President Donald Trump signed into law the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 (S. 3744) on Wednesday afternoon. As the signing statement explains, the bill "holds accountable perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses such as the systematic use of indoctrination camps, forced labor, and intrusive surveillance to eradicate the ethnic identity and religious beliefs of Uyghurs and other minorities in China." It aims to accomplish that through the imposition of property & visa sanctions on responsible Chinese officials.
The bill's enactment comes after former National Security Adviser John Bolton alleged in a forthcoming book (which is the subject to a controversial lawsuit) that Trump agreed with Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping's decision to build the concentration camps. The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday published an excerpt of Bolton's book, which read in part:
"Xi had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang. According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do."
The Trump administration, which filed the lawsuit against the publication of Bolton's book on the grounds it violates a non-disclosure agreement Bolton signed as NSA to seek preclearance & declassification of materials in the book, hasn't commented on Bolton's allegation.
UPDATE - 5/26/20: The House passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 (S. 3744) on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 413-1. The vote gives the bill veto-proof majorities in both chambers of Congress.
UPDATE - 5/23/20: The House is expected to consider the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 (S. 3744) on Wednesday or Thursday, and if it passes the bill without amendment it will go to President Donald Trump's desk for enactment.
Countable's original article appears below.
What’s the story?
- A bill to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s “widespread and horrific abuses” against Uyghur Muslims and other Turkic Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region of China is on the move in Congress.
- Before the Senate adjourned last week, it passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 (S. 3744) by unanimous consent. The bill now heads to the House, which will have to approve the legislation before it can be signed into law by President Donald Trump.
- In addition to the Chinese Communist Party’s other forms of persecution detailed below, the CCP recently sent Uyghur Muslims to serve as forced labor to keep manufacturing facilities operating amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Wuhan, China.
What is China doing to Muslim minorities in Xinjiang?
- Human rights experts say that between 800,000 to 2 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims have been detained indefinitely in reeducation camps since April 2017 because the Chinese Communist Party views them as a potential extremist or separatist threat in the Xinjiang region.
- Detainees are interned without due process in the camps, where they are subjected to communist propaganda, forced to renounce Islam, and in some cases are beaten and tortured. Detainees are forced to demonstrate sufficient political loyalty to be released.
- Outside of the Xinjiang internment camps, there is political and cultural indoctrination occurring in schools and authorities using compulsory collection of biometric data (like DNA & voice samples), artificial intelligence, big data, and movement restrictions to control the population.
- The Chinese Communist Party also restricts the use of the Uyghur language and has demolished Uyghur graveyards and shrines, while there have been credible reports of extrajudicial mass killings.
- Abroad, the Chinese Communist Party has threatened & harassed Uyghurs & ethnic Muslim minorities who’ve moved overseas, and in some cases have sought to forcibly repatriate them to China. At least five journalists working for Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur service detailed abuses against their family members in Xinjiang because of their work exposing the Chinese Communist Party’s abuses.
- A Human Rights Watch report notes that the “human rights violations in Xinjiang today are of a scope and scale not seen in China since the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution”, and explains the motivation behind it:
“Authorities have sought to justify harsh treatment in the name of maintaining stability and security in Xinjiang, and to “strike at” those deemed terrorists and extremists in a “precise” and “in-depth” manner. Xinjiang officials claim the root of these problems is the “problematic ideas” of Turkic Muslims. These ideas include what authorities describe as extreme religious dogmas, but also any non-Han Chinese sense of identity, be it Islamic, Turkic, Uyghur, or Kazakh. Authorities insist that such beliefs and affinities must be “corrected” or “eradicated.”
What would the bill do?
- Introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) & Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, would aim to counter China’s repression by explicitly linking the situation in Xinjiang to the status of U.S.-China relations.
- It would require federal agencies to produce reports on the persecution, and call for those agencies to consider imposing financial & travel sanctions on Chinese government officials responsible.
- The State Dept. would work with U.S. allies & partners through multilateral institutions and the international community more broadly to condemn the persecution and consider sanctions against responsible Chinese officials.
- U.S. companies & individuals operating in Xinjiang would be required to certify that their commercial activities aren’t contributing to human rights violations in Xinjiang, and that their supply chains aren’t compromised by forced labor.
What’s the outlook for the bill?
- There is a lot of bipartisan support for the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, which has 66 cosponsors evenly divided between Democrats & Republicans in the Senate.
- In May 2019, the Senate unanimously passed an earlier version of this bill that the House amended and passed on a 407-1 vote in December 2019.
- The Senate’s unanimous passage of the latest version of the bill could enable it to receive broad support in the House, potentially without further amendment.
- In October 2019, the Trump administration imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials involved in the mass surveillance and detention of minority groups, in addition to blacklisting 28 companies or entities connected to the persecution. At the time, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called China's abuses a "brutal, systematic campaign to erase religion and culture in Xinjiang." That indicates a strong likelihood that the bill would be signed into law if it were to reach President Donald Trump’s desk.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Radio Free Asia / Fair Use)
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