WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today led a bipartisan group of members of Congress in calling out the Administration’s inadequate response to the Chinese government’s inhumane persecution of Uyghers in Western China. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the members urged the Trump Administration to take decisive action condemning China’s human rights abuses perpetrated against Uygher citizens in the country’s Xinjiang province.
“This issue is bigger than just China. It is about demonstrating to strongmen globally that the world will hold them accountable for their actions,” the members wrote.
The letter was signed by Chairman Engel (D-NY); Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Chairman of the Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation Subcommittee; Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), Ranking Member of the Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation Subcommittee; and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Ranking Member of the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Subcommittee.
Today’s letter is part of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s ongoing effort to push for strong United States leadership on this critical issue. In August of 2018, Chairman Engel urged the Administration to impose Global Magnitsky Act sanctions on those responsible for human rights abuses of the Uyghurs.
Full text of today’s letter can be found here and below:
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We write to follow up on our letter of August 28, 2018 requesting the Administration to take strong measures in response to egregious human rights abuses perpetrated by the Chinese Government in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). We received your response dated September 28, 2018, stating that the Department was looking into our request to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act on those responsible for such abuses and controls on exports of technology that facilitates mass detentions and surveillance of ethnic minorities in the XUAR. More than four months later, it appears that the Administration has taken no meaningful action in response to the situation in the XUAR, and we write today with a renewed sense of urgency on this serious matter.
Central and regional Chinese government policies have systematically denied Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in XUAR of their basic freedoms and created programs of mass surveillance and internment under the guise of “reeducation” and “anti-terrorism” efforts. Over a million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities have been interned in “political re-education camps” without due process as part of a broader attempt to wipe out their separate identity, language, and history. Relatives of U.S.-based Uyghurs and Uyghur Americans who have spoken out about the security crackdown in the XUAR have been detained.
Global responses to these abuses have been insufficient. Of particular concern are reports of U.S. companies that may be contributing to Beijing’s persecution of Uyghurs through their support or commercial ties to Hikvision and Dahua—two Chinese tech giants that have profited from the surge of security spending in Xinjiang. As recently as January 31, 2019, Reuters reported that Frontier Services Group, a company established by Blackwater-founder Erik Prince, is constructing a “training facility” in the XUAR. Although Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. announced on February 20 that it is halting sales of genetic sequencers in the XUAR, how the company was allowed to sell to a military end user items remains problematically unclear. These examples demonstrate not just the need to increase public awareness of human rights issues in the XUAR, but also impose consequences on PRC officials responsible and those who enable their abuses. Rhetoric without action will only embolden Beijing.
The Congress has demonstrated bicameral, bipartisan support for spotlighting the abhorrent situation in Xinjiang and China’s surveillance tactics and has urged President Trump to condemn these abuses committed by Chinese authorities. Since Congress reconvened in early January 2019, members from both sides of the aisle have introduced legislation that, among other things, calls for sanctions on Chinese officials orchestrating the “re-education camps” and imposes export restrictions on U.S. advanced technology that could facilitate the human rights abuses in XUAR.
We ask that you provide the Committee with a detailed, written response (with a classified annex, if necessary) to the following:
• Whether the United States monitors the use of U.S. technology that could be used to facilitate surveillance or mass arbitrary detention of Muslim minorities in the XUAR and, if so, how;
• Information on any U.S. companies that are allegedly providing technology transfers, sales, or security training for Chinese government officials or closely associated entities that operate in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region; and an assessment of the human rights implications of this support;
• Specifics about U.S. engagements with the Chinese government to-date on the human rights abuses in Xinjiang;
• The level of coordination with like-minded countries and partners on the situation in the XUAR and technology transfers or sales to Chinese entities that contribute to China’s repression; Efforts to declassify and publicize information about the camps and human rights violations in the XUAR; and
• Your plans for future engagement with China and like-minded countries concerning China’s human rights abuses in the XUAR, and your strategy for holding Beijing accountable.
The United States must stand up for the oppressed and, at every opportunity, make clear to the Chinese government that the situation in XUAR is a priority for the U.S. Government. This issue is bigger than just China. It is about demonstrating to strongmen globally that the world will hold them accountable for their actions.
Thank you for your attention to this matter and we look forward to hearing from you.