The U.S. Senate approved legislation on May 14 calling on President Donald Trump's administration to toughen its response to China's crackdown on its Uighur Muslim minority, the latest push in Washington to punish China as Trump blames Beijing for worsening the coronavirus pandemic.
Thebipartisan bill, introduced by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, callsfor sanctions against those responsible for the repression of Uighursand other Muslim groups. It specifically singles out a member ofChina's powerful Politburo as responsible for "gross humanrights violations" against them.
TheRepublican-led Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent, without aroll-call vote. Passage sends the measure to the Democratic-led Houseof Representatives, which must approve it before it is sent to theWhite House for Trump to sign into law or veto.
TheSenate move comes amid steadily worsening relations between the Trumpadministration and Beijing over the global COVID-19 pandemic, whichWashington has blamed on China's lack of transparency about theinitial outbreak there.
Chinadenies mishandling the outbreak and has condemned moves to passlegislation in support of the Uighurs as malicious attacks and aserious interference in its internal affairs that would affectbilateral cooperation.
TheUnited Nations estimates that more than a million Muslim Uighurs havebeen detained in camps in China's Xinjiang region in recent years.China denies mistreatment of Uighurs and says the camps providevocational training.
InNovember, the U.S. House overwhelmingly approved a bill calling forsanctions against senior Chinese officials responsible for theXinjiang crackdown and specifically named the region's CommunistParty secretary, Chen Quanguo, who, as a Politburo member, is in theupper echelons of China's leadership.
TheSenate bill also mentions Chen, as well as Xinjiang's former deputyparty secretary, Zhu Hailun, as bearing direct responsibility for theabuses.
Chinahas warned in the past of retaliation "in proportion" ifChen were targeted.
Itsembassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request forcomment on the Senate move.
TheSenate bill also calls on U.S. companies or individuals operating inthe Xinjiang region to take steps to ensure their supply chains arenot "compromised by forced labor" there.
Rubioco-sponsored a separate bill in March aimed at preventing goods madefrom forced labor in Xinjiang from reaching the United States.
Republican James Risch, who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and its senior Democrat, Bob Menendez, called the May 14-dated move "an important step in countering the totalitarian Chinese government’s widespread and horrific human rights abuses."
Theyurged the House take up the legislation quickly and send it to thepresident to be signed into law.