Senate approves bill to sanction China over Uighur rights

The Senate this week passed legislation urging President Trump to issue sanctions against those responsible for China’s actions against its Uighur Muslim minority as the president and his GOP allies have ramped up pressure on China over its handling of the coronavirus.

The bill introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) calls for the Trump administration to issue sanctions over the “gross human rights violations” against Uighurs and other Muslim groups in the country. It would condemn the internment of Uighurs and other Muslim groups in China’s Xinjiang region and call for the country to close the camps. The U.S. would also revoke the visas of any officials found to have taken part in the internment of the groups, among other measures.

“The Chinese Government and Communist Party’s systematic, ongoing efforts to wipe out the ethnic and cultural identities of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang is horrific and will be a stain on humanity should we refuse to act,” Rubio said in a statement after the Senate passage.

The bill was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate without a roll-call vote. It now must be passed by the House before being sent to the White House for approval.

The bill was previously passed in the Senate in September, Bloomberg News reported. However, the House amended the legislation to block the export of devices that could be used for spying or restricting communications or movement of members of the groups. The Senate removed that language from the version of the bill passed Thursday.

China has worked to detain an unknown number of members of the minority population in what it says are “reeducation camps.” Top administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have condemned the detainment, with Pompeo previously calling the effort an “attempt to erase its own citizens.” 

Trump has repeatedly attacked China over the coronavirus pandemic in recent weeks. Last week, the president described the pandemic as an attack even worse than Pearl Harbor or the attacks on 9/11.

“And it should have never happened. Could’ve been stopped at the source,” he said. “Could’ve been stopped in China.”

Trump on Thursday also said that the U.S. should end its reliance on products manufactured in China.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on the Senate floor accused China’s Communist Party of seeking to cover up the initial coronavirus outbreak, and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) this week urged colleagues not to take meetings with Chinese companies and “exercise caution” when meeting with Chinese officials.

Tags China Donald Trump Marco Rubio Marsha Blackburn Mike Pompeo Mitch McConnell sanctions Senate Uighur Muslims

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