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Rights groups welcome US bill to protect Uyghur Muslims

The bill empowers the US to regularly monitor internment camps where China has detained 2 million ethnic Muslims

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Updated: May 28, 2020 08:49 AM GMT
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Rights groups welcome US bill to protect Uyghur Muslims

Chinese military police attend an anti-terrorist oath-taking rally in Hetian in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in February 2017. (Photo: STR/AFP)

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Rights groups have hailed the US administration for passing a bill aiming to protect Uyghur Muslims from violations by the Chinese government.

The legislation passed by the US Senate on May 27, billed to be first such by any government, targets China for its detention and violence against the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

"The House and Senate have shown true global leadership," said Omer Kanat, executive director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP).

"This is a signal to the entire world that now is the time to end the Chinese government's atrocities," Kanat said in a May 27 statement.

The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 condemns the ruling Chinese Communist Party for the three-year-old internment camps where up to two million ethnic Muslims have been forcibly detained. The law requires regular monitoring of the situation by US government bodies.

It also addresses the Chinese government harassment of the Uyghurs staying in the United States.

The bill now awaits the president's nod to be signed into law.

The Munich-based World Uyghur Congress also welcomed the bill's approval and asked President Donald Trump on May 27 to "urgently" sign it into law.

"Once this bill is signed into law, it will constitute the first legislative initiative by a national government to address the Uyghur crisis," Uyghur Congress president Dolkun Isa said.

The bill includes travel bans and financial sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for atrocities against Uyghur Muslims.

It also singles out Chen Quanguo, the region's Communist Party secretary, as responsible for "gross human rights violations" against the Uyghurs.

Another key provision of the bill is a report by the US federal investigating agency to be submitted to the Congress on the steps to protect the Uyghurs from Chinese harassment on US soil.

"Beijing's barbarous actions targeting the Uyghur people are an outrage to the collective conscious of the world," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on May 27.

China has slammed the legislation in support of the Uyghurs as interference and warned of retaliation. China has denied mistreatment and said that internment camps impart vocational training

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) also welcomed the legislation's passage.

"The world has stood by for too long as the Chinese government detained millions of Muslims in concentration camps," USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel said in a statement.

The US Congress has already taken additional measures regarding the Uyghur crisis.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, introduced in March, prohibits imports from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to the US.

The new legislation comes at a time when ties between China and the US have strained due to the coronavirus pandemic. Both countries have blamed the other for spreading the epidemic.

The Uyghur Act came hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified Congress that the administration "no longer considered Hong Kong autonomous from China."

Last week Hong Kong witnessed violent protests after pro-democracy activists took to the streets over new security legislation. The law, which was approved by China's National People's Congress on May 28, will bypass the Hong Kong legislature and reportedly aims to suppress the pro-democracy movement in the former British colony.

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