United States: Freedom House Applauds Passage of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act

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Washington  –  May 27, 2020 —  In response to Congress passing S.3744, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which would require reporting on human rights abuses in the Xinjiang province of China and impose sanctions on Chinese officials found to be involved, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“We applaud Congress’s action to address the horrific human rights violations Chinese officials are committing against the Uyghur people and other minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “While this legislation cannot rectify the suffering of those disappeared, tortured, and abused in Xinjiang and beyond, it is an important step in confronting the egregious violations committed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and holding those responsible to account. The CCP’s increasingly brazen behavior cannot be left unaddressed by the United States or the international community. We welcome Congress’s actions as a step in the right direction, and urge President Trump to sign the act into law and impose sanctions on relevant officials as soon as possible.”

Background:

The government of China has detained between one and three million Uyghurs—an ethnic and religious minority living in northwestern China—in detention camps and other facilities where they are reportedly subject to mistreatment, torture, and forced labor. The Chinese government has claimed the camps are intended to reeducate Muslim extremists and that many detainees have been released. However, large numbers of detainees appear to have been arrested for peacefully exercising their rights to free expression and religious practice, and relatives abroad report that many people are still being held.

On May 27, 2020, the US House of Representatives passed S.3744, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, by a vote of 413 to 1 after the Senate unanimously approved the bill on May 14. The legislation is now set to go to the president’s desk for signature.

The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act will impose sanctions on foreign individuals and entities responsible for human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and require various reports, including on the scope and scale of abuses in Xinjiang, efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to protect US citizens and residents from harassment and intimidation by the Chinese government, and the Chinese government’s acquisition and development of technology to facilitate internment and mass surveillance in Xinjiang.

China is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2019. Freedom House has also tracked China’s repression of the Uyghur minority in its China Media Bulletin.

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