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‘Passing this bill is vital to holding China accountable for these grave human rights violations,’ Sen. Jeff Merkley said.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) have introduced the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Reauthorization Act of 2024 to maintain U.S. support for the human rights of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region and for other ethnic minority groups in China.

Congress enacted the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act in 2020 in response to widespread human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Mr. Rubio was the legislation’s sponsor.

The bill was signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2020 and took effect the same year. Its sanctions are set to expire in 2025. The two senators seek to reauthorize the sanctions section for an additional five years.

At a time when the Uyghur diaspora and Chinese dissidents remain the targets of transnational repression at the hands of Communist China, we must have the tools needed to confront this threat,“ Mr. Rubio said. ”This reauthorization is essential and I urge my colleagues to support this initiative.”

The legislation requires the U.S. president to impose sanctions on Chinese officials involved in human rights violations against Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in the region. It also calls on the president to ask Chinese authorities to shut the network of mass internment camps where at least 1 million Uyghurs are unlawfully detained. Forms of sanctions include freezing assets and denying visas.

The act also requires the secretary of state, within 180 days of its enactment, to report on human rights abuses in Xinjiang. The report should address details about the number of detainees, “reeducation” methods, forced labor, methods of torture, and other serious abuses.

The director of national intelligence also is required to report on national security threats arising from the Chinese communist regime’s policies on Xinjiang, including the technology used for mass surveillance.

Washington has accused Beijing of ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity that target Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. The Chinese communist regime denies the allegations.
The U.S. State Department found that “documented human rights abuses include coercive population control methods, forced labor, arbitrary detention in internment camps, torture, physical and sexual abuse, mass surveillance, family separation, and repression of cultural and religious expression.”
The United Nations Human Rights Office found in its 2022 report that Beijing may have committed multiple “serious human rights violations” against Uyghurs in the region, and found “credible evidence” of torture amounting to “crimes against humanity.”
In July 2020, the Trump administration sanctioned Xinjiang party secretary Chen Quanguo, a Politburo member and the highest-ranking Chinese official ever to be hit by U.S. sanctions, for his role in carrying out religious persecution in the region. Other Chinese officials sanctioned included Zhu Hailun, a former Xinjiang deputy party secretary; Wang Mingshan, Xinjiang’s director and Communist Party secretary; and Huo Liujun, Xinjiang’s former party secretary.

“The United States must continue to send a clear message that we will not be complicit in the Chinese government’s persecution and genocide of Uyghur Muslims,” Mr. Merkley said. “Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in Xinjiang are being tortured, imprisoned, enslaved, forced into labor, and pressured to abandon their religious and cultural practices by the Chinese government. Passing this bill is vital to holding China accountable for these grave human rights violations while protecting the victims of this genocide.”

Mr. Rubio also is a sponsor of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which was enacted on Dec. 23, 2021.
In 2020, a report from the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China, led by Mr. Rubio and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), found that multiple corporations, including Adidas, Nike, Coca-Cola, and Costco, have been allegedly linked to forced labor in the region.
Earlier this year, the House passed the Uyghur Policy Act to support Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in preserving their identities against the Chinese regime’s attempts to erase them from history. The legislation also aims to promote international awareness about the persecution and to guide responses to human rights violations in the region.
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