Today, on September 11, 2019, the US Senate passed the “Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019,” a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez. The senators introduced the bill to condemn the gross human rights violations against ethnic Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang (also known as East Turkistan) and to call for an end to the arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment of these minorities both inside and outside China.
Senator Marco Rubio, applauding the passage of the bill, stated, “It is long overdue for the United States to hold Chinese government and Communist Party officials accountable for the systemic and egregious human rights abuses and likely crimes against humanity in Xinjiang. This includes the internment of over one million Uyghurs and Muslim minorities in ‘political re-education’ camps.” He further urged the House to promptly pass the legislation and send it to the President’s desk.
“I am pleased that the Senate has taken action today to pass this significant legislation,” said Senator Menendez. “This legislation clearly states that Congress will not ignore the unjust imprisonment, mass surveillance, and forced labor camps faced by millions of Uyghur Muslims under an autocratic regime. While the Trump Administration has not prioritized the tragic situation in Xinjiang, I am glad to see that Congress is taking necessary steps to hold Chinese government and Communist Party officials accountable for gross human rights violations and potential crimes against humanity.”
UYghurs around the world have welcomed the passage of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act by the US Senate. Tahir Imin, a Uyghur activist and scholar based in Washington D.C., expressed his gratitude and appreciation to the Senators and the American people through a tweet.
The legislation primarily focuses on addressing the Chinese government’s severe human rights violations in the Uyghur homeland. These violations include the mass internment of over three million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. Additionally, the legislation aims to counter Beijing’s intimidation and threats against US citizens and legal permanent residents, including Uyghurs, who face harassment and intimidation by the Chinese government on American soil.
Furthermore, the legislation calls for increased US engagement on this issue, the application of Global Magnitsky and related sanctions, the full implementation of the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, a review of Commerce Department export controls and end-user restrictions, and the establishment of a voluntary database. This database would allow US citizens and legal permanent residents to provide information about their missing or detained family members, with the goal of seeking accountability for these actions.