Concern has spread among both Democrats and Republicans about the plight of Muslims in China.
By NAHAL TOOSI 11/13/2018 04:49 PM EST Updated 11/13/2018 06:20 PM EST
A bipartisan group of lawmakers plans to introduce legislation Wednesday aimed at shedding light on China’s treatment of its minority Muslim population, with hopes of ultimately holding any human rights abusers accountable.
The legislation comes as concern has spread among both Democrats and Republicans about the plight of Muslims in China, and as President Donald Trump has signaled a tougher overall U.S. posture toward Beijing, including for what he says are bad-faith trade practices.
The legislation, similar versions of which are set to be introduced in the Senate and House, condemns the mistreatment of Muslims in China and calls “for an end to arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment of these communities.” It also denounces Chinese harassment of U.S. citizens and other residents of Chinese Muslim descent that it sees as a threat.
The communist-led Asian country has a long track record of discriminating against its Muslim minority. But in recent years the conditions facing the religious group have grown unusually dire, especially in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, home to many Uighur Muslims.
The U.S. legislation requires several agencies, including the State Department, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to produce a series of reports that detail everything from the scale and scope of China’s crackdown on Muslims to a list of Chinese companies involved in building and running the camps.More than 1 million Uighurs are believed to have been held in “re-education camps” where they face psychological indoctrination in questionable conditions. The Chinese government insists the camps are vocational training centers designed to fight extremism.
The bill is spearheaded in the Senate by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey. Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey and Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi of New York are set to introduce similar legislation in the House. Both bills have several co-sponsors from both parties.
“The United States must hold accountable officials in the Chinese government and Communist Party responsible for gross violations of human rights and possible crimes against humanity,” Rubio said in a statement.
Menendez added in his own statement that “China’s treatment of its Uighur minority is beyond abhorrent.” He also denounced what many describe as a police-state level of Chinese surveillance of Muslims, saying it threatens “basic human dignity.”
The legislation urges the U.S. government to engage more closely on the subject overall, including by establishing a State Department role focused on what’s happening in Xinjiang. It also urges the secretary of Commerce to “consider the prohibition on the sale or provision of any United States-made goods or services to any state agent in Xinjiang.”
Smith, in a statement, described the centers in which the Uighurs are detained as “concentration camps” and said “Chinese government officials should be held accountable for their complicity in this evil and U.S. businesses should be barred from helping China create a high-tech police state in Xinjiang province.”