China has reacted angrily after the US House of Representatives passed a bill requiring the Trump administration to toughen its response to Xinjiang, where the more than one million Muslims, mostly ethnic Uighurs, are being held in re-education camps.
In a statement released shortly after the Uighur Act of 2019 was passed, China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday condemned the move, saying the bill “wantonly smears China’s efforts to eliminate and combat extremism”.
The United States‘s lower house voted to back the bill 407 to one in a vote on Tuesday.
It has still to be approved by the Senate before it can be sent to President Donald Trump. The White House has yet to say whether Trump would sign or veto it.
“We urge the US to immediately correct its mistake, to stop the above bill on Xinjiang from becoming law, to stop using Xinjiang as a way to interfere in China’s domestic affairs,” said the statement, attributed to the ministry’s spokeswoman, Hua Chunying.
The Uighur Act of 2019 is a stronger version of a bill that angered Beijing when it passed the Senate in September and calls on Trump to impose sanctions for the first time on a member of China’s powerful politburo, even as he attempts to reach a deal with Beijing to end a damaging trade war.
The bill requires the US president to condemn abuses against Muslims and call for the closure of the camps in the country’s far western region.
“This is seen as a continuing series of attacks really aimed not so much at freeing anybody or at human rights but at putting pressure on China on these trade negotiations going forward,” Beijing-based political analyst and government adviser Einar Tangen told Al Jazeera.
“If you look beneath that, at the Democrat view and the fact that this was bi-partisan, it seems the only thing the people in politics in Washington can agree on is that China is, somehow, an evil empire.”