News 05 December 2019

Uyghur Act draws China outrage

The Chinese government has threatened to hit back at the United States after the passing of the ‘Uyghur Act’ (Also ‘Uighur’) by the US Congress, which would impose sanctions on Chinese officials for their role in the oppression of ethnic and Muslim minorities by the Chinese government.

The Act follows on the heels of President Trump signing into law the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, under which, inter alia, the US Secretary of State is now obliged to annually report ‘whether Hong Kong continues to warrant treatment under US law in the same manner as US laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1, 1997.’

The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act (s.178), directs ‘various U.S. government bodies to prepare reports on China’s treatment of the Uyghurs.’ It also holds that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence ‘shall report to Congress on issues including the security threats caused by the Chinese government’s reported crackdown on the Uyghur population in Xinjiang province, the frequency with which other governments are forcibly returning Turkic Muslim refugees and asylum seekers to China, and the development or transfer of technology that facilitates mass internment and surveillance,’ and obliges the Secretary of State to report as to whether, ‘certain individuals, including the Chinese Communist Party secretary for Xinjiang, meet the criteria for sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.’

In response to the Act, China’s Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying issued a vigorous denial of allegations that underly the Act, and charged the Senate with hypocrisy:

‘This bill,’ she said, ‘deliberately smears the human rights condition in Xinjiang, slanders China’s efforts in de-radicalisation and counter-terrorism and viciously attacks the Chinese government’s Xinjiang policy. It seriously violates international law and basic norms governing international relations, and grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs. China is strongly indignant at and firmly opposed to it.’

‘Xinjiang issues,’ she said, were not about ‘human rights, ethnicity or religion,’ she said, but ‘violence, terrorism and separatism.’

And, she added, ‘US politicians are talking about “conscience” with China on ethnic minorities. What ignorance, what brazenness, what hypocrisy! Have they forgotten? The two-century long American history is tainted with the blood and tears of native Indians, who were originally master of the continent.’

There was ‘no way’, she said, that the Uyghur and Hong Kong related sanctions would not impact ‘bilateral relations and cooperation in important areas.’