The House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously approved the 2019 Uighur Act in an attempt to curb one of the gravest human rights violations of all time in China’s Xinjiang province. The House passed the bill by 407 to 1 vote, with Republican Rep. Thomas Massie being the only one who opposed the bill.
The bill calls the White House Officials to stiffen their stance on continued oppression on the detained Uighur Muslims and impose sanctions on Chinese Officials, especially Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo.
The bill also asks the officials to restrict the export of devices that are used to monitor the detainees, including the facial recognition technology.
The bill might endanger the US-China trade deal, which is currently in a negotiation phase to discuss the terms of “phase one”. The Chinese authorities have issued a warning that a “price must be paid” for approving the 2019 Uighur Act that enforces sanctions against its officials.
Moreover, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying in response to approval of the bill said, “The bill deliberately denigrates China’s human rights situation in Xinjiang, wantonly smears China’s efforts to eliminate extremism and combat terrorism (and) viciously attacks the Chinese government’s policy of governing Xinjiang.”
This is not for the first time that the US lawmakers have approved a bill that strongly calls out the Chinese authorities on the manner of handling their internal affairs.
Earlier, President Trump signed the Hong Kong bill to support the pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, which led to sanctions on US-based NGOs and suspension of future visits of US warships to the semi-autonomous territory.
On the other hand, Massie, who earlier opposed the Hong Kong bill as well, justified his vote for opposing both Hong Kong bill and the 2019 Uighur Act on Twitter, saying both of the issues are internal affairs of China.
“When our government meddles in the internal affairs of foreign countries, it invites those governments to meddle in our affair,” Massie said.
With two back to back bills imposing sanctions on Chinese officials, the possibility of the Chinese government’s withdrawal from phase one of the trade deal is certainly expected. However, withdrawal from China now from the already negotiated deal would surely spark criticism from international organizations as the decision would impact the global market.