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senate Bill S. 178

Should Federal Agencies Report to Congress About China’s Persecution of the Uyghur Muslims?

Argument in favor

The U.S. should take a stand against the People’s Republic of China’s mass surveillance of the Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities and the internment of a million or more in “political reeducation” camps. The reports required by this bill would orient federal agencies toward strategies that will end the persecution diplomatically.

Argument opposed

Congress shouldn’t try to tie the hands of the executive branch as it engages in diplomacy with China. The reports required by this bill could further weaken the U.S.-China diplomatic relationship amid an ongoing trade dispute and tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Foreign Relations
    IntroducedJanuary 17th, 2019

What is Senate Bill S. 178?

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.

Impact

The Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities persecuted in Xinjiang; the Chinese government and its relations with the U.S.; DNI, FBI, the U.S. Agency for Global Media, and the State Dept.; and Congress.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 178

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced this bill to hold the Chinese government accountable for its human rights violations against the Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang:

“The United States must hold Chinese government and Communist Party officials responsible for gross human rights violations and possible crimes against humanities, including the internment in ‘political reeducation’ camps of a million or more Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities. The State Department has indicated that it is leading an interagency effort within the administration to develop policy options in response to this brutal campaign of repression. The time for action is now. I’m proud to lead this important bipartisan initiative that elevates the current crisis in Xinjiang, puts forth policy options to address it, and signals that we will not tolerate Chinese government intrusions on American soil.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ), an original cosponsor of this bill, added:

“The Trump administration needs to finally develop a coherent strategy for China that reflects our nation’s values, especially given the horrific and ongoing human rights abuses committed against China’s Uighur Minority. This legislation is an acknowledgment that we are now in a new era of strategic competition with China, and I am proud to help lead this important effort so we don’t abandon our values and simply turn a blind eye as a million Muslims are unjustly imprisoned and forced into labor camps by an autocratic Chinese regime.”

The Trump administration drafted a policy sanctioning Chinese officials and companies involved in the internment camps, but it failed to get through an interagency review process because of concerns by the Treasury Dept. that it could have an adverse impact on trade talks. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hasn’t indicated whether the U.S. intends to pursue sanctions for the persecution in Xinjiang.

This legislation has the support of 30 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate, including 18 Democrats, 10 Republicans, and two Independents.


Of Note: Human rights experts say that between 800,000 to 2 million 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. 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.

And the crackdown extends beyond the reeducation camps as well, with 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. 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.”


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: S Pakhrin via Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

AKA

Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019

Official Title

A bill to condemn gross human rights violations of ethnic Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, and calling for an end to arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment of these communities inside and outside China.

    Uyghur Muslims are in dire needs of US support. I believe with your help and support, together our voice will be louder and be able to raise the awareness of the 21st century cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing the Uyghur people are facing. The Bill has to pass but unfortunately is does not seem to be the priority, We need to raise awareness of the situation at all levels. If we raise up together and be the voice of voiceless, innocent people of East Turkistan, we can at least put pressure on our own government to take action and force China to shut down the concentration camps and stop the crimes against humanity. I believe if we stand up for what we believe in, we can change the horrific situation in East Turkistan. The world was promised "never again", we just can let this atrocity continue and witness the beautiful culture disappear before us. We must be bigger than that.
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    We said Never Again after the Holocaust. After Cambodia. After Rwanda. After countless other genocides, internment camps, and atrocities. It’s time to translate remembrance into action, and hold ourselves responsible, as members of a globalized world, to looking out for our fellow humans. It’s time to call out the country that has tried - and up to this point, largely succeeded - to quietly disappear the Uyghurs. I support diplomatic solutions to working to end China’s oppression of the Uyghur population.
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    Please co-sponsor S. 178 and H.R. 649, as well as H.Res. 1025. These bills condemn the gross human rights violations against the Uyghur Muslims, imposes economic sanctions on key Chinese officials, and directs various US agencies to provide reports on the situation.
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