Human Rights of Uyghurs
The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act was developed amid growing congressional frustration with what members on both sides of the aisle have perceived as President Trump’s unwillingness to make the human rights practices of foreign governments a priority, as well their perception that the President has been unwilling to challenge China, specifically, over its human rights abuses.
As signed into law, the measure imposes sanctions on foreign individuals and entities responsible for human rights abuses in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region and require various reports on the topic..
The Uyghurs have traditionally inhabited a series of oases scattered across the Taklamakan Desert within the Tarim Basin, a territory that has historically been controlled by many civilizations including China, the Mongols, the Tibetans and various Turkic polities. The Uyghurs gradually started to become Islamized in the 10th century and most Uyghurs identified as Muslims by the 16th century. Islam has since played an important role in Uyghur culture and identity.
Since 2015, it has been estimated that over a million Uyghurs been have detained in Xinjiang re-education camps. The camps were established under General Secretary Xi Jinping's administration with the main goal of ensuring adherence to national ideology. Critics of China's treatment of Uyghurs have accused the Chinese government of propagating a policy of sinicization in Xinjiang in the 21st century, calling this policy an ethnocide or a cultural genocide of Uyghurs.
Summary of Immigration and Refugee Provisions. With respect to immigration and refugee policy, the measure requires the president to impose visa-blocking sanctions on individuals identified as abusing the human rights of Uyghurs. It also requires the Secretary of State to report on a number of things, including a description of the frequency with which foreign governments are forcibly returning Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other refugees and asylum seekers to the People’s Republic of China.
Legislative History.. The following is a brief legislative history of the measure:
The first version of the "Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act" was introduced in the Senate on January 17, 2019, by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) as. S. 178. It was introduced in the House on that same day by Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) as H.R. 649.
The Senate passed the Senate-passed version of S. 178 on September 11, 2019, by unanimous consent.
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs marked up S. 178 on October 30, 2019, amending it an ordering it to be reported to the full House.
The full House of Representatives took up the House Amendments to S. 178 on December 3, 2019, passing it by a vote of 407-1.
A new version of the "Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act" was introduced in the Senate on May 14, 2020, by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) as. S. 3744.
The Senate passed S. 3.744 on May 14, 2020, by unanimous consent. The House followed the Senate on May 27, passing it by a vote of 413-1.
House Floor Consideration. The House took up S. 3744 on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, using a procedure known as “suspension of the rules.” Under that procedure, floor debate is limited to 40 minutes, no floor amendments to the measure are permitted, and the bill must receive the affirmative votes of at least two-thirds of those Members who are present and voting in order to be passed.
The Democratic floor manager of the bill was Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA). The Republican floor manager was House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Minority Member Michael McCaul (R-TX). Both the majority and minority floor managers supported the measure.
Democrats speaking in favor of the the bill on the House floor were Representatives Sherman, Jim McGovern (D-MA), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Republicans speaking in favor of the bill were Representatives McCaul and Christopher Smith (R-NJ), the sponsor of the House version of the bill.
No Members spoke in opposition to the bill.
Concentration Camps Controversy. In his book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir., set to be released next week, former National Security Advisor John Bolton alleges that during the opening dinner of the 2019 G-20 meeting in Osaka, Japan, Chinese President Xi defended China's construction of camps housing up to 1 million Uighur Muslims and that President Trump signaled his approval.
"According to our interpreter," Mr Bolton wrote, "Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do."
Bolton also wrote that he was also told by another National Security Council official, Matt Pottinger, that President Trump said something similar during a 2017 trip to China.