SEATTLE, Washington — The Uyghur population in Xinjiang, a Muslim-majority and Turkish-ethnic minority, is facing religious and ethnic persecution. The Uyghurs live in China but also in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Australia. At least one million Uyghurs in China have been interned in “re-education” camps, and those outside the camps live in a surveillance state. As a result, the U.S. House is passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019, which would compel the U.S. government to protect the human rights of the Uyghur in China.
The CCP’s Treatment of the Uyghurs
Firstly, the Chinese government, particularly under leader Xi Jinping, has cracked down on the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) considers the Uyghurs to be inferior due to their customs and religious beliefs. As a result, Islamaphobia is increasing throughout China, and the CCP has declared the Uyghurs to be terrorists. Meanwhile, CCP feels particularly threatened by Uyghur intellectuals. For example, professors, journalists, writers and poets who publicly challenge the government’s treatment of the Uyghurs and other minority groups.
Secondly, CCP considers Xinjiang important to China’s economic development; therefore, it encouraged Han Chinese people to move into the city and lower the Uyghur’s majority there as far back as 1949. This has created an even greater divide. According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), “human rights organizations have observed that the economic benefits of resource extraction and development are often disproportionately enjoyed by Han Chinese.”
Uyghur Human Rights in and Out of the Camps
The “re-education” camps are inhumane. For instance, Uyghurs live in prison-like conditions with constant surveillance. Some report torture. Women have reported sexual violence as well as forced abortions and nonconsensual implantation of contraceptive devices. “Detainees are forced to pledge loyalty to the CCP and renounce Islam […] as well as sing praises for communism and learn Mandarin,” according to the CFR.
Outside the camps, the Chinese government is undermining the Uyghur human rights. Attempts to erase Uyghur culture and Muslim practices include destroying mosques, banning Muslim names like Mohammed and Medina and discouraging the consumption of Halal food. The government has even placed Communist Party members in Uyghur homes to “report on any perceived ‘extremist’ behaviors.” Similarly, CCP has turned Xinjiang into a massive surveillance state. The city has police checkpoints, frequent checking of ID cards and cell-phone searches.
Background on the Bill
The Senate passed S. 178: Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 on September 11, 2019. Sen. Marco Rubio [R-FL] introduced the bill to Senate on January 17, 2019. It now has 46 cosponsors (26D, 18R, 2I). Meanwhile, the Senate referred the bill to the Foreign Relations Committee. In the House, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence (Permanent) and Judiciary Committees examined the bill.
The bill was originally introduced in the House as H.R. 649 on January 17; however, the House is now considering the Senate’s version of the bill. To clarify, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 is meant to “condemn gross human rights violations of ethnic Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, and [call]for an end to arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment of these communities inside and outside China.”
Updates to the Bill
The House agreed to pass S. 178 with changes on December 3, 2019, by a margin of 407-1 with 23 House Representatives not voting. Subsequently, the Senate must approve the changes the House made to the bill. If the Senate passes the new version, S. 178 will go to the President to sign into law. If this happens, then the U.S. will stand for Uyghur Human Rights.
– Sarah Frazer