U.S. Senate passes Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act

Foreign Affairs

Photo credit: Ozan Kose / AFP / Getty / SupChina illustration. The demonstrator’s mask bears the light blue color of East Turkestan, the independent homeland that many Uyghurs envision.

As described to SupChina by scholar Darren Byler, the Chinese government is undertaking a project of “social re-engineering” — a.k.a. forced assimilation, or cultural genocide — of its Turkic ethnic minorities, particularly Uyghurs, in the far-west Xinjiang region. Senior U.S. officials particularly in the State and Defense departments have condemned these human rights abuses, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is reportedly holding up sanctions to avoid jeopardizing trade talks.

Last week, the U.S. government took its first serious step to turn words into action — but it didn’t come from the White House. The South China Morning Post reports:

The United States Senate has passed a bipartisan bill urging the government to take action to counter China’s crackdown on Muslims and other minorities in its far western region of Xinjiang.

The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which passed on Wednesday, appeals for the Trump administration to consider human rights sanctions against Chinese officials and prohibit the export of U.S. goods and services to state agents operating in Xinjiang.

Meanwhile, the wiping of Uyghur culture from the Chinese landscape continues: Christian Shepherd and Yuan Yang of the Financial Times have published an excellent report (paywall) that documents the Chinese government’s war on Uyghur culture, the arrests of leading Uyghur intellectuals, and the removal of Uyghur language, spoken and written, from public spaces. If you can’t get behind the paywall, Shepherd has posted a background and some of the key points of the story in this Twitter thread.