China has reacted angrily after the United States (US) House of Representatives passed a bill requiring the Trump administration to toughen its response to Xinjiang, where the more than one million Muslims, mostly ethnic Uighurs, are being held in re-education camps.
In a statement released shortly after the Uighur Act of 2019 was passed, China’s foreign ministry yesterday condemned the move, saying the bill “wantonly smears China’s efforts to eliminate and combat extremism”.
The US’s lower house voted to back the bill 407 to one in a vote on Tuesday.
It has still to be approved by the Senate before it can be sent to President Donald Trump.
The White House has yet to say whether Trump would sign or veto it.
“We urge the US to immediately correct its mistake, to stop the above bill on Xinjiang from becoming law, to stop using Xinjiang as a way to interfere in China’s domestic affairs,” said the statement, attributed to the ministry’s spokeswoman, Hua Chunying.
The Uighur Act of 2019 is a stronger version of a bill that angered Beijing when it passed the Senate in September and calls on Trump to impose sanctions for the first time on a member of China’s powerful politburo, even as he attempts to reach a deal with Beijing to end a damaging trade war.
The bill requires the US president to condemn abuses against Muslims and call for the closure of the camps in the country’s far western region.
The bill also calls for sanctions against the senior Chinese officials it says are responsible and specifically names Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo.
As a politburo member, Chen is in the upper echelons of China’s leadership.
China has consistently denied any mistreatment of Uighurs and says the camps are providing vocational training. It has warned of retaliation “in proportion” if Chen is targeted.
On Tuesday, the editor-in-chief of China’s Global Times newspaper, Hu Xijin, said China might ban all US diplomatic passport holders from entering Xinjiang, and that Beijing was also considering visa restrictions on US officials and legislators with “odious performance” on the Xinjiang issue.
The bill on Xinjiang follows similar legislation related to Hong Kong, which Trump signed into law last week in the face of vocal opposition from China.
In response, China on Monday banned US military ships and aircraft from visiting Hong Kong and announced as yet unspecified sanctions against several US non-government organisations.—Al Jazeera