China calls bill a ‘vicious attack’, coming days after Congress passed similar laws over Hong Kong
The US House of Representatives has passed a bill calling for “targeted sanctions” against Chinese officials involved in the repression of Uighur Muslims.
The bill, which also calls on Donald Trump to speak out over the detention of more than one million Muslims in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province, was passed on Tuesday by a vote of 407 to 1. It must still go to the Senate and then the president for approval.
The bill identifies some of the policies used by the Chinese authorities to keep tabs on all the estimated 10 million Uighurs in Xinjiang, not just the hundreds of thousands in detention.
These include facial recognition software, the use of QR codes to track how often people pray and general “pervasive, high-tech surveillance, including the collection of DNA samples from children”.
The White House is set to say whether it will approve the bill, should it pass the Senate. But it includes a revision that would allow Mr Trump to waive any sanctions if he believed it to be in the national interest.
Attributed to foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, it repeated Beijing’s oft-used line that such criticism from Washington “violates international law and basic norms governing international relations, and grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs”.
And the statement also touted various international bodies’ comments in support of China’s counter-terror policies, including favourable remarks made by the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation in March, as showing Beijing was backed by “the mainstream public opinion of the international community”.
In reality, the situation in Xinjiang has divided the international community. UN human rights bodies have expressed repeated concerns and a group of mostly Western nations wrote a letter earlier this year calling for action to support the Uighurs.
But other nations, mostly those with close economic ties to China and involvement in its “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative, have asserted Beijing’s right to tackle what it calls a national security issue.