Bill to Counteract China’s Persecution of Uyghur Muslims Unanimously Passes Senate
Should the House pass the bill to counteract China's persecution of Uyghurs?
The Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill to develop a federal strategy to address China’s persecution of the 13 million Uyghur Muslims who reside in the western region of Xinjiang.
Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act (S. 178) passed after Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) made a unanimous consent request that wasn’t objected to at the end of the day's business. The bill has the support of 44 bipartisan cosponsors — including 25 Democrats, 17 Republicans, and two Independents — and now heads to the House for possible consideration.
What’s happening to the Uyghurs?
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. 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.
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?
The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act would call out abuses by the Chinese government and require a variety of U.S. governmental bodies to prepare reports about the persecution of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region. The following are some of the major reports that would be required by this bill:
- The State Dept. & Director of National Intelligence (DNI) would report on the scope of the crackdown, estimate the number of detained individuals, assess Chinese surveillance efforts, and determine which Chinese companies are benefiting from the labor former Uyghur detainees who work for low wages under threat of a return to the re-education camps.
- Those agencies would also report on the regional security threats posed by China’s crackdown and the transfer of technologies for mass internment & surveillance, and note which Central Asian countries are forcibly returning Uyghur refugees & asylum seekers to China.
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would report on 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.
- The U.S. Agency for Global Media would report on the reach of U.S. media such as Radio Free Asia into Xinjiang, along with an assessment of Chinese propaganda strategies and disinformation targeted at Uyghur communities globally.
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.
The Trump administration is considering whether to impose sanctions on China over the persecution in Xinjiang, although it hasn’t weighed in on the merits of this bill.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Radio Free Asia / Fair Use)
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