The U.S. House of Representatives on December 3 overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ultimately enable the banning of exports and imposition of sanctions against senior Chinese officials for human rights violations linked to a crackdown on the country’s Muslim minority.
The Uighur (Uyghur) Act of 2019 criticizes Beijing’s “gross human rights violations” in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where about 1 million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are held in internment camps.
The measure passed 407 to 1 and is a stronger version of the bill that cleared the Senate in September. The two documents must be reconciled into one bill for U.S. President Trump’s signature, or veto.
China responded furiously in its criticism of the bill.
“We urge the U.S. to immediately correct its mistakes, prevent the aforementioned Xinjiang-related bill from becoming law, and stop using the Xinjiang-related issue to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in a statement on December 4.
“China will respond according to the development of the situation,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
China has defended the existence of the internment camps, which it says are used for “reeducation” and has denied mistreating Uyghurs.
The camps are for vocational training and meant to temper Islamic extremism, Beijing has insisted.