May 15, 2020
On Thursday, May 14, 2020, the United States Senate has unanimously approved the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020. The bill, originally introduced by Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez, would impose sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights abuses against Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in China-occupied East Turkistan (AKA Xinjiang).
The bill aims to “condemn gross human rights violations of ethnic Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, and calling for an end to arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment of these communities inside and outside China.”
The bill now heads to Congress, and if passed, President Trump would have 180 days to submit to Congress a report listing Chinese officials and any other individuals who are responsible for carrying out torture, prolonged detention without charges and a trial; abduction; cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment of Muslim minority groups; and other flagrant denials of the “right to life, liberty, or the security of persons in the region.
On December 3, 2019, the US House of Representatives passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act with an overwhelming majority of 407 against 1. As the House made amendments to the bill, it had to gain approval from the Senate. The Chinese government reacted with great fury at the time.
Uyghurs around the world have welcomed the move with great thrill and hope. “It is an important first step to a more comprehensive policy response,” said Washington based Uyghur advocacy group, Uyghur Human Rights Project.
The World Uyghur Congress tweeted “In this time of despair for the Uyghur people, the passage of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act by the Senate gives great hope for all of us. We urge the House of Representatives to act on it rapidly.”