US Congress set to ramp up China pressure over Uighur rights
WASHINGTON, May 27: The US Congress was set Wednesday to authorize sanctions against Chinese officials over the mass incarceration of Uighur Muslims, ramping up pressure in another front in the Pacific powers' troubled relationship.
The US House of Representatives will vote later Wednesday on a final version of the Uighur Human Rights Act, which unanimously passed the Senate and has infuriated China.
The expected passage comes just as the United States is looking to sway China on another rights issue -- Hong Kong, where Beijing is due to impose a security law that critics say will drastically curb free expression in the semi-autonomous territory.
Rights groups say some one million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in China's northwestern Xinjiang region have been incarcerated in camps in a massive brainwashing campaign with few modern parallels.
The act "holds the Communist Party of China accountable for grotesque actions," Republican Senator Marco Rubio, an ally of President Donald Trump, said after Senate passage in mid-May.
The act would require the administration to determine which Chinese officials are responsible for the "arbitrary detention, torture and harassment" of Uighurs and other minorities.
The United States under the law would freeze any assets the officials hold in the world's largest economy and ban their entry into the country.
The law specifically mentions Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party chief in Xinjiang. Previously posted in Tibet, Chen has built a reputation for clamping down on restive minorities.
China initially denied the mass incarceration but has since described the camps as vocational training centers aimed at discouraging Islamic radicalism.
After an earlier version of the law passed in December, the Chinese foreign ministry accused the United States of hypocrisy in its own "counter-terrorism" efforts. -AFP