House Passes UIGHUR Act to Counter Chinese Repression
Washington, D.C. – Today the House of Representatives passed S.178, the UIGHUR Act, as amended, which counters China’s brutal repression of the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, including the mass detention of over one million Uighurs in so-called “re-education” camps.
In the Senate, S. 178, the UIGHUR Act, was initially authored by Senators Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez. The House companion to S. 178 was authored by Congressmen Chris Smith and Tom Suozzi. In February of 2019, Chairman of the House Asia Subcommittee Brad Sherman introduced, along with House Asia Subcommittee Ranking Member Ted Yoho, Congressman Connolly and Congresswoman Wagner, HR 1025, the UIGHUR Act. The bill that passed the House today was amended to include key elements of each of all these complementary pieces of legislation on the crisis in Xinjiang.
The Chinese government has sought to erase the distinct Uighur Muslim culture and religious traditions through mass detentions, re-education, and a coordinated campaign under the banner “Strike Hard Against Violent Extremism.” Thanks to recently leaked Chinese Communist Party documents, we now know that the impetus for this campaign came from the highest levels of the Party. Along with re-education camps, the Strike Hard campaign has also involved high-tech surveillance and monitoring of Uighurs, monitoring and suppressing Muslim religious practices and suppression of the Uighur language. The Party has intimidated Chinese Muslim minorities living abroad and prevented others—including some with permanent residency in the United States—from leaving the region.
The UIGHUR Act is designed to counter this aggression. The bill requires the President to impose Global Magnitsky sanctions against all Chinese officials who are responsible for the suppression of the Uighurs. The UIGHUR Act that passed the House today also requires the U.S. government to identify technologies that assist China in surveillance, mass detention, and forced labor and prevents these items from being exported from the United States to China. The bill also establishes that it is U.S. policy to work with other countries to prevent them from exporting these technologies to China.
“The extent of this Chinese effort to, in effect, ‘Sinofy’ the Muslim population of Western China is staggering,” said Congressman Sherman. “I want to thank all of my colleagues who worked on this bill for their efforts and I urge the Senate to promptly pass the UIGHUR Act. This legislation is an important start, but it is just a start, in our efforts to counter Chinese repression of Muslim minorities.”
“Chinese officials must be held accountable for crimes against humanity—including through Global Magnitsky and international sanctions and UN investigations,” said Rep. Chris Smith, Ranking Member on the House Global Human Rights Subcommittee, prime sponsor of the House version of the bill. “This legislation takes the next step. We cannot be silent. We must demand an end to these barbaric practices and accountability from the Chinese government. We must say ‘never again’ to the cultural genocide and the atrocities suffered by Uighurs and others in China.”
Smith, a commissioner on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China since 2007, said that atrocities such as what the Chinese government is doing to its own people can exist in the 21st century is “astounding and enormously sad.”
“Chinese authorities initially denied the existence of mass internment camps and even now try to portray them as vocational training centers,” Smith said. “They employed lies, censorship and economic coercion to stifle discussion of their crimes.”
“The problems of China are not limited to trade. The brutal, religious-based persecution of the Uighurs demonstrates China’s total disregard for human rights. The Xinjiang province’s police state and forced labor camps demand that the U.S. hold the Chinese Communist party government accountable,” said Congressman Tom Suozzi. “I would like to thank Congressman Sherman for his leadership on this issue, as well as Congressman Chris Smith for working with us to create this important legislation. The passage of this bill is an important step in shedding light on the plight of the Uighurs and provides concrete steps by the U.S. to help hold the Chinese government accountable.”