US President Donald Trump signed into law the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, a White House spokesman said.
The law authorises the imposition of US sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for the detention and persecution of Uyghurs, a Turkic, Muslim ethnic group predominantly residing in the Xinjiang autonomous region in western China.
Last month, the United States House of Representatives passed the legislation calling for sanctions against officials in China responsible for human rights abuses in the country’s western region of Xinjiang, a district in China that mainly Uyghur Muslims live.
Under this legislation, the US government can ban the individuals or entities found responsible for human rights abuses in Xinjiang from entering America.
China’s policies towards Uyghurs have publicly been condemned by US officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Vice President Mike Pence, US ambassador at large for international religious freedom Sam Brownback and US ambassador at large for counterterrorism Nathan Sales.
In an interview with Axios last week, Trump said he had resisted punishing China for its mass internment of ethnic Uyghurs last year for fear of jeopardising trade talks with Beijing, a blunt admission of his transactional approach to human rights and willingness to subordinate other US policy priorities to a potential trade deal he considers vital to his re-election.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday condemned Trump for undermining the United States’ moral authority.
According to the United Nations, last year, China sent more than one million Uyghurs to what it calls “re-education camps” in the Xinjiang region as part of its “fight against terror”. Detainees describe horrific abuse inside the camps, including rape and sterilisation. Images of those released from the detention show them unable to speak, walk or recognise their family members.