The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation Tuesday that would apply sanctions against senior Chinese officials, triggering a furious response from Beijing.
The legislation adds to tensions between the two superpowers just as they are locked in negotiations to finalise a “phase one” deal to resolve their protracted trade war. Washington had already angered Beijing when President Donald Trump signed legislation supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, prompting Beijing earlier this week to impose sanctions on US NGOs and suspend future visits by US warships to the semi-autonomous city.
The Uighur Act of 2019 condemns Beijing’s “gross human rights violations” linked to the crackdown in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where upwards of one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are believed to be held in re-education camps.
The Uighur bill, which was passed 407-1 in the Democratic-controlled House, requires the U.S. president to condemn abuses against Muslims and call for the closure of mass detention camps in Xinjiang. It calls on Trump to impose sanctions for the first time on a member of China’s powerful politburo, Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo.
Beijing called the bill a malicious attack on China, demanded the United States keep it from becoming law and said it would act to defend its interests as necessary.
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,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
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