In an increasingly rare instance of near-unanimous bipartisanship, the U.S. House of Representatives joined together to pass a bill by a vote of 407–1 that strongly condemned and urged sanctions against the communist Chinese government over the allegedly horrific treatment of its minority Uighur Muslim population, Fox News reported.
Quite predictably, officials in Beijing lashed out at the passage of the bill and issued a stern warning on Wednesday that a “price must be paid” by the U.S. for the action taken by Congress.
The timing of the passage of the Uighur Act of 2019 couldn’t be more notable, as it came just about a week after President Donald Trump signed into law a bill expressing the U.S. government’s support for the pro-democracy movement in the semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong.
The support for the Hong Kong protesters — who have been brutalized by communist-backed police forces — prompted the Chinese government to issue sanctions against American non-governmental organizations in the country and bar any U.S. warships from visiting Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, both the Hong Kong and Uighur bills come as the U.S. and China are locked in prolonged negotiations on a wide-ranging trade deal, according to Reuters, and there is little doubt that these two acts of Congress will complicate matters.
Though it remains unclear at this time exactly how China will react to this legislation, the government has already warned of “strong countermeasures” against the “smears” of its efforts to “combat terrorism” and stated that there was “no way this can have no effect on China–U.S. relations” or future cooperation on trade and other matters, The Guardian reports.
“Re-education” camps for Muslim minorities
The Uighur Act of 2019 passed by the House was similar, if a bit stronger, than a bill recently passed by the Senate. The two measures will need to be reconciled with each other prior submission to the White House for President Trump’s signature.
The Act strongly condemned the “gross human rights violations” alleged to be occurring in the so-called “re-education camps” utilized by Chinese officials in the northwest region of Xinjiang to imprison approximately 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities and called for the closure of such camps and the imposition of sanctions against the officials responsible for them.
While Chinese officials have downplayed the camps as mere “vocational training” centers that instruct the Muslim minorities in Mandarin and teach them job skills, they have also noted the necessity of the camps to root out Islamic extremism and terrorism among separatists in the region.
Leaked documents, however, show the camps are less about “voluntary” job training and “free housing” and instead are more about communist indoctrination designed to destroy any Islamic identity among the minority residents, replete with mass surveillance, widespread abuse, forcible detention, forced labor, sterilizations, and even torture and summary executions, according to the BBC.
A necessary condemnation
Despite protestations to the contrary from the communist Chinese government, there is little doubt among the Western world that the Chinese government is blatantly mistreating and mass imprisoning an ethnic and religious minority in concentration camps.
That is simply unacceptable, and history has shown the results of such horrific abuses in the past. It is a good thing that Congress is strongly expressing its opposition to such, and it can only be hoped that the impact on relations and future cooperation on trade will be minimal.