Bills introduced in US Congress to hold China accountable for human rights abuses

Washington, Jan 18 (PTI) A bipartisan group of powerful US lawmakers Thursday introduced legislations in Congress to hold China accountable for its alleged human rights violations against ethnic and religious minorities.

The legislation, introduced in the Senate and the House of Representatives, seeks to provide policymakers with new tools and information to address the egregious human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist party officials and local authorities in the country’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Over a million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim ethnic minorities in the region have been interned in “political reeducation” camps and the entire families of Uyghur advocates for human rights in China have disappeared, including many US citizens, the lawmakers said.

China has denied the allegations of human rights violations and persecution of Muslim minority groups.

The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez and in the House by Congressmen Chris Smith and Thomas Suozzi.

There are reports of torture and forced labour in the camps, with possible export of goods to the US market, they said.

“The United States must hold Chinese government and Communist party officials responsible for gross human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity, including the internment in ‘political reeducation’ camps of a million or more Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities,” said Rubio.

“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,” he said.

Menendez said the Trump administration needs to finally develop a coherent strategy for China that reflects America’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 labour camps by an autocratic Chinese regime,” Menendez said.

Smith said this is now one of the world’s most pressing human rights challenges.

“The Chinese government is engaged in an appalling campaign to forcibly assimilate and destroy the religion and culture of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims we cannot be silent when such atrocities occur.

“There must be a coordinated and bipartisan response from the US and the international community that will hold Chinese officials and businesses accountable for their egregious abuses and, at the same time, will protect the US citizens and their families,” Smith said.

Suozzi said the brutal, religious based persecution of the Uyghurs in China is alarming. The Xinjiang province has become nothing short of a police state.

“The United States government must take a stand against this violation of human rights and show the Chinese government that this is unacceptable. This bicameral, bipartisan bill is an important step in shedding light on the plight of the Uyghurs, and provides concrete policy options to address this tragic situation,” he said.

Condemning human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, including the arbitrary detention of up to one million Uyghurs, the legislation calls on the Trump administration to use Global Magnitsky sanctions and the Commerce Department’s ‘Entity List’ to sanction Chinese officials responsible for abuses and control the exports of Chinese businesses profiting from the mass surveillance and internment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

It also seeks report by the Director of National Intelligence regarding the regional security threat posed by the crackdown and the frequency with which Central Asian countries are forcibly returning Turkic Muslim refugees and asylum seekers. The report will also include a list of Chinese companies involved in the construction and operation of the camps.

It also seeks an FBI report on efforts to provide information to and protect US citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (including Uyghurs) from Chinese government harassment and intimidation on American soil.

The legislation has sought establishment of a new “double-hatted” position at the State Department (Special Coordinator for Xinjiang) while the crisis persists.