U.S. lawmakers say Uighur bill supports China's Muslims

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday said legislation targeting Chinese officials over treatment of the country’s Uighur Muslim minority sent a “clear message” of support from Washington, seeking to prod the Trump administration to push Beijing on human rights.

“Over the years, there has been a real commitment to shine a bright light on human rights in China and to say to those who are affected by that, ‘you are not alone,’” House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a signing ceremony for the legislation.

The Democratic-led House and Republican-controlled Senate passed legislation nearly unanimously calling for sanctions against those responsible for repression in China’s Xinjiang province, after U.N. estimates that over 1 million Muslims have been detained.

The bill singles out the region’s Communist Party secretary, Chen Quanguo, a member of China’s ruling Politburo, as responsible for “gross human rights violations” against Muslims.

“This is a genocide. More than a million people are in concentration camps. Millions more are harassed every day,” said Republican Representative Chris Smith, a lead supporter of the legislation.

China denies mistreatment.

Sending the bill to the White House starts a 10-day clock, minus Sundays, for Trump to sign the bill into law or veto it. Otherwise, it becomes law without his signature.

Trump has not disclosed his plans. White House aides did not respond to requests for comment.

Relations between Washington and Beijing have become increasingly tense as Trump has blamed China for worsening the coronavirus pandemic. His administration also recently moved toward ending special treatment for Hong Kong.

The bill also calls on U.S. companies operating in Xinjiang to ensure their products do not include parts using forced labor.

The House vote on the bill was the first use of proxy voting because of the pandemic. Republicans have sued to prevent it, complicating questions about the legislation’s fate.

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