The U.S Congress has finally voted to toughen the country’s response to a brutal Chinese crackdown on ethnic minorities such as the Muslim Uighurs, adding another factor to the increasingly stormy relationship between the two countries.
A bipartisan bill was finally passed on Wednesday that would impose sanctions on Chinese officials involved in the mass surveillance and detention of Uighurs and other ethnic groups in the western Xinjiang region, a campaign that has drawn muted international response because of China’s influence around the world, But a lot has changed due to their role in the world wide spread of corona virus.
The measure already passed the Senate and President Trump won’t find it at all difficult to fix his signature, after he said this week he’ll “very strongly” consider it amid US anger over China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak and tension over a Chinese plan to restrict civil liberties in Hong Kong.
The proper way to punish China, along with other sore points in the China-US relationship was settled, as Republican and Democratic members of Congress spoke in support of the bill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in support of the bill said; “Beijing’s barbarous actions targeting the Uighur people are an outrage to the collective conscience of the world.”
The U.S Congress voted late last year to condemn the crackdown in Xinjiang, where Chinese authorities have detained more than a million people “from mostly Muslim ethnic groups that include Uighurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz” in a vast network of detention centers.
The legislation also requires the US government to report to Congress on violations of human rights in Xinjiang as well as China’s acquisition of technology used for mass detention and surveillance. Also their use of corona Virus to weaken the economy of their competitors.
A provision that would have imposed export restrictions on surveillance and other equipment used in the crackdown was initially passed in the House but then stripped out in the version that passed in the Senate earlier this month.
Despite the limitations, the legislation amounts to the first concrete step by a government to penalize China over the treatment of the Uighurs since the existence of the mass internment camps became widely known in recent years, said Peter Irwin, a senior program officer at the Uighur Human Rights Project.
The legislation itself has to spur the rest of the international community, particularly the European Union and other powerful blocs of states, to actually take this as a template and pass their own legislation and find their own way to punish China.
Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House China Task Force, called what’s happening in Xianjiang a “cultural genocide” of Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups, this the way they neglected corona virus, just because they don’t care.
McCaul said, “This bill will show the Chinese Communist Party and the world that their treatment of the Muslim Uighurs is inexcusable and will not be allowed without serious consequences,”
The Chinese government, when not bristling at criticism of what it sees as an internal matter, has also said the detention camps are vocational training centers.
The Chinese government has publicly brushed away criticism of its crackdown in Xianjiang, which it launched in 2014 as the “Strike Hard Against Violent Extremism” in a vast resource-rich territory whose inhabitants are largely distinct, culturally and ethnically, from the country’s Han Chinese majority.
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