May 27, 2020 - World

House passes Uighur human rights bill via proxy vote

Chinese flag above internment camp

Photo: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

The House voted 413-1 on Wednesday in favor of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, a Senate bill that would sanction Chinese officials responsible for detaining up to 2 million members of the ethnic minority in forced labor camps in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: The passage of the bill will further exacerbate tensions between the U.S. and China, which are already running extremely high as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and Beijing's aggressive actions toward Hong Kong.

  • The bill requires President Trump to submit reports to Congress identifying Chinese officials and others who've played a role in human rights abuses toward the Uighur population.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced the bill, which has widespread bipartisan support. It will now go to the president's desk for a signature, though Trump has not yet indicated whether he will enact it into law.
  • Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) was the sole "no" vote.

Worth noting: This is the first time in House history that a bill has been passed via proxy voting, which was introduced as part of the 45-day "remote proceedings" period that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has designated during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 70 Democrats voted via proxy.

Between the lines, via Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: The U.S. government has been slow to levy sanctions on the Chinese government, which is still actively perpetrating the worst ethno-religious mass internment since World War II.

  • The difficulty of punishing Beijing, even for such extreme abuses, indicates how powerful the country has become.

The big picture: Earlier on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that he has certified to Congress that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China and does not warrant special treatment under U.S. law.

  • The revocation of Hong Kong's special status could lead to sanctions against China.
  • The Trump administration has also signaled it will seek some sort of punishment against China for its role in covering up the initial coronavirus outbreak.

Go deeper ... Exclusive: Documents show China's secret extradition request for Uighur in Turkey

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