WASHINGTON — Congress overwhelmingly approved a bill Tuesday aimed at pressuring China over a brutal mass crackdown on ethnic Muslims in the far west of the country, legislation that follows a similar measure over human rights abuses in Hong Kong that angered the Chinese government.
The House of Representatives voted 407-1 to approve the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, which has already passed the Senate.
The legislation condemns the detention of more than 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other minorities in so-called reeducation camps, where they are subjected to political indoctrination, torture, beatings, and food deprivation, as well as denial of religious and linguistic freedom.
It would require the State Department to evaluate whether Chinese officials would meet the criteria for sanctions for their roles in the crackdown in the Xinjian region.
“The Chinese Government and Communist Party is working to systematically wipe out the ethnic and cultural identities of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of the backers of the legislation. “Today, Congress took another important step to hold Chinese officials accountable for egregious and ongoing human rights abuses.”
Last month, Congress passed — and President Donald Trump signed — legislation supporting anti-government protests in Hong Kong. China said Monday that it will suspend U.S. military ship and aircraft visits to the semi-autonomous city and sanction several American pro-democracy and human rights groups in response to the move.
Chinese government departments Wednesday published a slew of strongly worded rebukes to the bill, calling it another example of U.S. interference into China’s internal affairs.
The Foreign Affairs Commission of China’s legislature said the U.S. has “turned a blind eye” to its efforts to combat terrorism and safeguard human rights in Xinjiang.
The commission said the bill “disregards the facts and mixes up black and white.”