BEIJING: China responded with swift condemnation Wednesday after US Congress overwhelmingly approved a bill targeting its mass crackdown on ethnic Muslim minorities, further straining ties after President Donald Trump last week signed separate human rights legislation on Hong Kong.
The Uighur Human Rights Policy Act denounces the detention of an estimated 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and others in China’s far west Xinjiang region, home to the predominantly Muslim minority groups. It would require the State Department to evaluate whether Chinese officials would meet the criteria for sanctions for their roles in enacting oppressive policies.
The bill “disregards the facts and mixes up black and white,” said the Foreign Affairs Commission of China’s legislature in one among a slew of strongly worded rebukes from government departments.
“It is regrettable that U.S. Congress has not only turned a blind eye to Xinjiang’s efforts to combat terrorism and protect human rights in accordance with laws and regulations, but also to Xinjiang’s current economic development, social stability, national unity and religious harmony,” the commission said.
Former detainees and their family members have told The Associated Press that they were arbitrarily held in heavily-secured, prison-like camps where they were pressured to renounce their faith and express gratitude to the ruling Communist Party. A recent leak of classified Chinese government documents revealed a blueprint for rewiring the thoughts of ethnic minorities who had not committed any crimes.
Beijing says the measures are necessary to combat terrorism and eradicate religious extremism. The government says the facilities offer vocational training to those without employable skills. China has repeatedly criticized the US for interfering in its internal affairs, most recently over the mass pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.
After Trump signed bills mandating sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials, an annual review of Hong Kong’s favorable trade status and a ban on exporting nonlethal munitions to Hong Kong police, China retaliated Monday by suspending US military ship and aircraft visits to Hong Kong.
It also said it would sanction a number of groups, including Human Rights Watch and the National Endowment for Democracy, that have “performed badly” in regard to the unrest in Hong Kong.