US passes Uighur bill, demands sanctions on Chinese officials

Mihrigul Tursun was detained in a Chinese internment camp for Uighur Muslims

A response from China on the Xinjiang issue that hits U.S. companies would add another obstacle as the two countries struggle to finalise a "phase one" deal to de-escalate the trade war. "China has so far been restrained, but that doesn't mean that Beijing will not when necessary fight back hard against America's increasingly worse provocations", it said.

The foreign ministry, in a statement attributed to spokeswoman Hua Chunying, said Xinjiang is China's internal affair and urged the U.S.to correct its mistakes and stop the bill from becoming law.

It also calls for sanctions against senior Chinese officials believed to be responsible, specifically Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo.

After initially denying the camps' existence, Beijing cast the facilities as "vocational education centers" where "students" learn Mandarin and job skills in an effort to steer them away from religious extremism, terrorism and separatism.

Washington had already angered Beijing when President Donald Trump signed legislation supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, prompting China earlier this week to impose sanctions on US-based NGOs and suspend future visits by U.S. warships to the semi-autonomous territory. It has warned of retaliation "in proportion" if Chen were targeted.

China may ban all United States diplomatic passport-holders from entering its western Xinjiang region, the editor-in-chief of a state-run Chinese newspaper says.

Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, in October said the USA would impose visa restrictions of Chinese government officials connected to the detention of Uighurs, and accused Beijing pursuing a "highly repressive campaign".

China had earlier this week suspended visits by US Navy ships and aircrafts to Hong Kong after the US passed the Human Rights and Democracy Act into law.

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Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi called China's treatment of the Uighurs "an outrage to the collective conscience of the world". "We must demand an end to these barbaric practices", Smith said, adding that Chinese officials must be held accountable for crimes against humanity".

Thomas Massie, the sole member of Congress to vote against both the Hong Kong and Uighur bills, said he did so because he considered the issues to be Chinese domestic affairs.

Those concerns, which were growing even before Mr Trump took office, have increased at the same time that the president is trying to reach a trade deal with Beijing.

Johnson said he did not think passage of the Uighur act would be the reason for this, but added: "It would be another dousing of kindling with fuel".

The bill in the House would require the president to submit to Congress within 120 days a list of officials responsible for the abuses and to impose sanctions on them under the Global Magnitsky Act, which provides for visa bans and asset freezes.

It would require the State Department to evaluate whether Chinese officials would meet the criteria for sanctions for their roles in the crackdown in the Xinjiang region.

Rights groups say that tens of thousands of Muslims are detained in high-security prison camps across Xinjiang.

And it would require the Commerce Department to ban U.S. exports to entities in Xinjiang that are known to be used in the detention or surveillance of Muslim minorities, including facial recognition technology.

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