The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill calling for official action and harsher response to be taken against China over its treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. While it still awaits approval from the U.S. Senate, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act demands a stronger response from the Trump administration over the allegations against Beijing on the mistreatment of up to 2 million Uyghurs.
The one vote against the bill was from Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky, NPR reported. “When our government meddles in the internal affairs of foreign countries, it invites those governments to meddle in our affairs,” he wrote on Twitter.
The bill’s passage follows the leaking of two sets of documents detailing the mistreatment and unethical detaining of Uyghurs and other minority groups in Xinjiang. In what The New York Times describes as “one of the most significant leaks of government papers from inside China’s ruling Communist Party in decades,” 400 pages-plus of leaked documentation provide an inside view of the continuing events in Xinjiang, including internal speeches by President Xi Jinping, surveillance information, internal investigations, and plans to detain as many as 1 million ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and others into internment camps and prisons during the past three years.
Authorities have detained hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims in internment camps since 2017, TheNew York Times reports. Those detained undergo anywhere from months to years of indoctrination and interrogation under the guise of anti-terrorism or extremism prevention education aimed to transform them into loyal supporters of the party.
Beijing denies any mistreatment of the Uyghurs or others in Xinjiang and says it is providing vocational training to help decrease “extremism and separatism.” “Trainees take courses that prepare them to succeed under local employment conditions,” the U.S. Chinese Embassy said in a tweet on Tuesday
The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act is the second piece of legislation denouncing alleged Chinese human rights abuses to pass the House within the last month, CNN reports. On Nov. 27, President Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act into law in response to growing concerns regarding the city’s freedoms. The Chinese government then banned all U.S. military visits to Hong Kong and strongly condemned the laws. Similarly, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act has resulted in China warning the U.S. that a price must be paid.
Hours after the act passed on Tuesday, Dec. 3, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying warned the U.S. on how the potential law would affect current negotiations. “Do you think if America takes actions to hurt China’s interests we won’t take any action?” Chunying said. “I think any wrong words and deeds must pay the due price.”
“The issue that Xinjiang faces is not about ethnicity, religion or human rights. Rather, it is about fighting violence, terrorism and separatism,” she said in a statement Wednesday.
The Uyghur are a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority from the Central Asian region. The largest population live in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region. They are among the most persecuted Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, alongside the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, and Hui.
The Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC News) reports that “satellite imagery captured over a remote and highly volatile region of western China lifts the lid on the size and spread of internment camps used to indoctrinate vast numbers of the region’s Muslim population.” An investigation led by the network identified the expansion of 28 detention camps.
Muslim minorities, including an estimate of 1 million Uyghur, are being detained in centers with growing evidence of human rights violations, including torture and forced labor. The mistreatment of these people continues as Beijing considers both Xinjiang and the Muslim minorities present in the region as “backwards’”and “obstacles to progress.”
According to DW Akademie, Chinese authorities in Xinjiang revised legislation to permit the use of “education and training centers” to combat religious extremism in October 2018.
While Beijing claims the detention centers across Xinjiang are for vocational and educational training and are not in violation of human rights laws, reports characterize them as political reeducation camps attempting to erase minority culture, language, and religion under the name of counterterrorism and fighting Islamic extremism. Human rights group even classify them as internment camps aimed to eradicate the Muslim minority.