Senate Passes Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020

Published by Matt Fishman on

The U.S. Senate has passed the “Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020”. 

The bill’s purpose is to “condemn gross human rights violations of ethnic Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, and calling for an end to arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment of these communities inside and outside China”.

As part of this bill, the President is directed to condemn China’s abuses against Uyghurs; call on China to close the internment camps; ensure the Chinese government’s respect for human rights; and allow for the detained to reestablish contact with their loved ones. Additionally, the bill calls on the Secretary of State to “consider strategically employing sanctions” and “visa restrictions”.

“[G]ross human rights violations” refer to allegations of the “systematic detention of Muslim Uighurs” in the Xinjiang region of China. Among these allegations are accusations that the Chinese government is detaining Uighurs in Xinjiang and holding them in so-called “training centers”. Detainees are “educated and trained in the training center for at least one year”. During this time, Chinese officials “manage and control student activities to prevent escapes” including monitoring of “eating periods”, “toilet breaks”, and “bath time”. Purportedly, the purpose of detainment is for China to “resolve ideological contradictions, and guide away students from bad emotions” as well as force “the repentance and confession of the students for them to understand deeply the illegal, criminal and dangerous nature of their past behavior”.

China has publicly acknowledged the existence of centers that “have been established with the goal of educating and rehabilitating people guilty of minor crimes or law-breaking and eradicating the influence of terrorism and extremism”. However, they have also called the allegations “pure fabrication and fake news”.

The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act was approved by the Senate with “Unanimous Consent”. It now moves to the House of Representatives where it is expected to pass, however, last year Congress passed the “Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019” with near unanimity, and President Trump did not sign it into law.