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US passes Uyghur human rights bill

Protest against the treatment of Uyghurs in China, 21 May 2019
Protest against the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China, 21 May 2019 [Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation/Facebook]

The US House of Representatives has passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act 2019 by 407 to one sparking outrage from China.

China's policies in Xinjiang have been in the spotlight in the last few weeks after leaked government documents revealed how staff promoted repentance and confession in the high-security prison camps it runs for Uyghurs in Xinjiang province and rewards ideological transformation.

In one week in 2017 15,000 people from southern Xinjiang were sent to the camps, the leaked documents show.

It has been reported that Uyghurs are forced to drink alcohol and eat pork in China's so-called re-education camps. One woman who escaped said inmates were gang raped, tortured and used as subjects for medical experiments.

The Uyghur human rights bill, which still needs Senate and presidential approval, counters the "arbitrary detention, torture and harassment" of Uyghur Muslims in China and addresses "gross violations of universally recognised human rights, including the mass internment of over 1,000,000 Uyghurs."

It says China is "systematically discriminating" against Uyghurs by "denying them a range of civil and political rights, including the freedom of expression, religion, movement and a fair trial."

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It also details the high-tech surveillance carried out against Uyghurs, the use of QR codes outside homes to collect information on how regularly people pray and facial and voice recognition software.

The bill calls on US President Donald Trump to condemn the abuses against Muslims, call for the closure of the camps and place sanctions on Chinese officials involved in these abuses specifically Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo.

China has said the bill is a "gross interference" which "slanders China's efforts in de-radicalisation and counter-terrorism."

The editor-in-chief of China's Global Times newspaper said China may issue visa restrictions on US officials and legislators related to what's happening in Xinjiang.

READ: China 'promotes repentance' in Uyghur prison camps, leaked reports show

It comes off the heels of the US' Hong Kong bill, now signed into law, which supports pro-democracy protesters there. In response, China suspended visits by US navy ships and aircraft to Hong Kong and put sanctions on US-based human rights groups.

At the end of October 23 nations backed a British statement condemning Beijing's human rights record but it was countered by 54 other countries.

Egypt, one of China's allies, has praised Beijing for "remarkable achievements in human rights."

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