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Menendez, Rubio, Colleagues Introduce Legislation in Response to China’s Human Rights Abuses against Uyghurs

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), chair of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), introduced the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act in response to the gross violations of human rights in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, including the mass internment of over one million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities, as well as China’s intimidation and threats against U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (LPRs) on American soil. 

Joining Menendez and Rubio are Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Angus King (I-Maine), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

“The situation in Xinjiang and China’s treatment of its Uighur Minority is beyond abhorrent,” Menendez said, “and shines a light of China’s surveillance state tactics that threaten basic human dignity. The President needs to have a clear and consistent approach to China, and not turn a blind eye as a million Muslims are unjustly imprisoned and forced into labor camps by an autocratic regime.”

“The United States must hold accountable officials in the Chinese government and Communist Party responsible for gross violations of human rights and possible crimes against humanity, including the internment in ‘political reeducation’ camps of as many as a million Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities,” Rubio said. “I’m proud to lead this important initiative that elevates the current crisis in Xinjiang, puts forth policy options to address it, and signals that we will not tolerate Chinese government intrusions on American soil.”

A copy of the legislation can be found here. Key elements of the legislation include:

  • A report by the Director of National Intelligence, in coordination with the State Department, regarding the regional security threat posed by the crackdown and the frequency with which Central Asian countries are forcibly returning Turkic Muslim refugees and asylum seekers. The report will also include a list of Chinese companies involved in the construction and operation of the camps.
  • An FBI report on efforts to provide information to and protect U.S. citizens and LPRs (including Uyghurs) from Chinese government harassment and intimidation.
  • A report by the CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media regarding efforts to intimidate Radio Free Asia (RFA) employees, the status and reach of U.S. broadcasting to Xinjiang, and analysis of disinformation propaganda by the PRC targeting Uyghur communities globally.
  • A State Department report regarding the scale and scope of the crackdown.

The legislation urges high-level U.S. engagement on this issue, the establishment of a new “double-hatted” position at the State Department (a Special Coordinator for Xinjiang) while the crisis persists, the application of Global Magnitsky and related sanctions, the full implementation of the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, a review of Commerce Department export controls and end user restrictions and the establishment of a voluntary database whereby U.S. citizens and LPRs can provide information regarding missing/detained family members with a view toward pressing for accountability.

In October, Rubio and U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) issued the CECC’s 2018 Annual Report and announced several new joint initiatives to protect U.S. citizens and residents from intimidation and address possible crimes against humanity occurring in China. Rep. Smith is introducing companion legislation in the House.