This bill — the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 — would aim to help the executive branch develop a strategy to address the persecution of 13 million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities by the People’s Republic of China in the Xinjiang region. It’d call out abuses by the Chinese government require various U.S. governmental bodies to prepare reports about the persecution (described in greater detail below) and submit them to Congress, in addition to calling on the president to condemn China’s abuses and demand the closure of the PRC’s “political reeducation” camps.
The bill lists several findings regarding the persecution of the roughly 13 million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang:
The Chinese government has instituted pervasive mass surveillance across the region, including the collection of DNA samples without consent, the use of QR codes outside homes to track prayer frequency, facial & voice recognition software for “predictive policing” databases”, and severe restrictions on freedom of movement.
Chinese security forces haven’t been held accountable for credible reports of mass shootings in Alaqagha (2014), Hanerik (2013), and Siriqbuya (2013), or two extrajudicial killings of Abdulbasit Ablimit (2013) and Rozi Osman (2014).
Uyghur culture is systematically oppressed by the Chinese state through restrictions on the use of the Uyghur language and gathering for cultural events.
Between 800,000 and 2 million are detained in “political reeducation” camps, where prisoners face forced political indoctrination, torture, beatings, food deprivation, solitary confinement, forced labor, denial of cultural expression, and denial of adequate medical care. Upon release, detainees are oten forced to work for low wages in nearby factories under threat of a return to the “political reeducation” camps.
The Washington Post editorial board wrote of the situation in Xinjiang, “At stake is not just the welfare of the Uighurs, but also whether the technologies of the 21st century will be used to smother freedom.” And experts have described the situation in Xinjiang as “a police state to rival North Korea, with a formalized racism on the order of South African apartheid” and the repression as a “slow motion Tiananmen”.
Among the governmental agencies required to produce reports by this bill include:
The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) & State Dept. would be required to report on issues including the regional security threats caused by the Chinese government’s reported crackdown on the Uyghur population in Xinjiang province, and on the transfer or development of technologies to facilitate mass internment and surveillance there. The report would also note which Central Asian countries are forcibly returning Turkic Muslim refugees and asylum seekers to Xinjiang.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would be required to report on topics such as its efforts to protect ethnic Uyghurs and Chinese nationals in the U.S. from Chinese government intimidation, and those whose families in China have been threatened or detained because of their advocacy fo the Uyghurs.
The U.S. Agency for Global Media would report on media-related matters, including the reach of U.S. media such as Radio Free Asia into Xinjiang and assessments of Chinese propaganda strategies. The report would also include an analysis of disinformation propaganda by the PRC targeting Uyghur communities globally.
The State Dept. & DNI would report on the scope of the reported crackdown in Xinjiang, including the number of detained individuals, an assessment of government surveillance in the province, and U.S. diplomatic efforts to address the crackdown. The report would also include an assessment of formerly detained individuals being forced to work for low wages under threat of being sent back to “political reeducation camps”, and of the Chinese companies and industries that benefit from such labor.
This bill would also encourage the State Dept. to consider targeted sanctions against members of the Chinese government alleged to be responsible for human rights abuses in Xinjiang and elsewhere under the Magnitsky Act. Further, it’d encourage the State Dept. to consider targeted sanctions against individuals or designating the People’s Republic of China a “Country of Particular Concern” under the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act.
A position known as the Special Coordinator for Xinjiang would be established at the State Dept. for the duration of the crisis.