Washington / Beijing (AP) - The US House of Representatives has passed a law to support the human rights situation of the Uighurs in northwest China with just one vote against.
It will allow sanctions against Chinese government officials who are held responsible for the suppression of the Muslim ethnic group. China's government responded promptly on Wednesday in Beijing indignant and spoke of a "serious interference in internal affairs". Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called on the US government not to allow the law to come into force, and promised otherwise unspecified countermeasures.
The plans are an additional burden on the already frosty relations between the US and China. The bill follows just two weeks into a Hong Kong "Human Rights and Democracy Order", with which the US Congress backed the democratic forces in China's Special Administrative Region. Despite the protests from Beijing, US President Donald Trump signed the law. Experts believe that the tensions will also complicate a targeted first agreement in the one-year trade war between the two largest economies.
The Uighurs' bill, which was adopted on Tuesday evening local time in Washington, also urges the US government to sanction authorities and companies responsible for interning Uighurs or their forced labor. Various agencies of the US government are required to provide Parliament with regular progress reports on the situation of the Uighurs in China's northwestern Xinjiang province.
According to officially unconfirmed estimates, hundreds of thousands of Uighurs have been put into reeducation camps, which China describes only as training centers. Uighurs are ethnically related to the Turks and feel oppressed by the ruling Han Chinese. After their takeover in 1949 in Beijing, the Communists had incorporated the former East Turkestan in the People's Republic.
Beijing accuses Uyghur groups of terrorism and separatism. The US Senate had unanimously passed a similar bill to protect the Uighurs in September. He needs to revisit the House of Representatives before the bill can be sent to the US President for signature. Trump could veto, but then threatens him because of the bipartisan approval of the law to be outvoted by Congress by a two-thirds majority.
After the vote in the House of Representatives, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Beijing said the plans vilified China's efforts in the fight against terrorism. Xinjiang is not about human rights or religion, but about the fight against terrorism and separatism. The plans continued to reveal that the US was applying "double standards" in the fight against terrorism. The Chinese people see through it "the hypocrisy and evil intentions" of the American side only clearer, said the spokeswoman.
US House of Representatives spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi had earlier accused Beijing of "barbaric acts" in a speech. The Uighurs and other Muslim minorities suffered from "brutal repression" and ubiquitous mass surveillance. Arbitrary and compulsory genetic material is collected even from children. Pelosi spoke of the detention of "one to three million innocent people" and denounced beatings, solitary confinement, denial of food or medical care, forced sterilization and other forms of torture. How many people are stuck in the camps is unclear. Human rights groups speak up to one million.
Pelosi also mentioned "incidents of mass shootings and extrajudicial killings". "We're sending a message to Beijing: America is watching and will not keep silent." Beijing's human rights violations went beyond the Uighurs. They ranged from decades of mistreatment of Tibetans to Hong Kong's fight for democracy and the rule of law and the detention of journalists, civil rights lawyers and Christian and Democratic activists.
In response to the US pro-democracy support bill in Hong Kong, China announced this week that it would no longer allow US military aircraft and ships to visit its Special Administrative Region. It also seeks to "sanction" some non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the human rights organization Human Rights Watch. What punishment threatens them, was not clear at first, since foreign human rights organizations are not allowed in China anyway.
Legal text of the Senate version, English
Legislative text of the House of Representatives, English
China's foreign ministry response, Chinese