US continues to play Xinjiang card with Uygur bill despite high-level talks

By Liu Xin and Fan Lingzhi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/18 11:22:52 Last Updated: 2020/6/18 20:50:44

Photo: Cui Meng/GT

US President Donald Trump signed the Uygur bill on Wednesday, claiming to protect human rights in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region thousands of miles away from the White House. Wednesday is the last day before the legislation takes effect automatically. On the same day, China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met in Hawaii as tensions escalated between the two countries.

The bill will add difficulty to the strained China-US ties. Trump purposely picked the date for the bilateral talk, initially hoping to impose pressure and trade for more bargaining chips. The move also showed that the US would not change its tough policies toward China, experts said. 

The Uygur bill, which was first put forward by Senator Marco Rubio, was passed by the US Senate and House of Representatives on May 14 and 27, respectively. According to information from the website of the US Congress, the legislation was presented to Trump on June 8. 

If Trump did not sign it into law or veto it within 10 days, the bill becomes law without his signature. The legislation requires the US government to impose more pressure on China over Xinjiang issues and offer a report to Congress within 180 days of its enactment to list Chinese officials to be sanctioned by the US, US media reported. 

Trump signed the bill the last day before it automatically becomes law and wanted to use the slow action of the Uygur bill as a bargaining chip against China along with other anti-China cards, including the Phase I trade deal to contain China, Zhu Ying, deputy director of the Human Rights Institute at the Southwest University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times.

Trump signed the Uygur bill without any ceremony, issuing a statement in which he said a sanctions provision intruded on executive authority and he would regard it as non-binding, US media reported.

Zhu said that these details showed that Trump is trying to find a balance with the US Congress - he had to sign the bipartisan bill, but also wants to cool tensions with China.

Trump may seek advice from White House lawyers on how to sign the bill without provoking China. But his move is meaningless, as the bill has been signed and the US can use it whenever it wants, Zhu said.

Jia Chunyang, an expert from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that there should be no dirty tricks when one side is sincere in seeking to alleviate tensions and hold bilateral talks, while Americans think another way - they fight while seeking cooperation when it fits their interests. 

Signing the bill on the same day the bilateral talks take place shows that the US wants to send a signal to China that it will continue putting pressure on China on issues of human rights and religious freedom. It also reveals the US malicious attempt to play Xinjiang topics to contain China.

"These sinister tricks make us doubt its sincerity in seeking to improve China-US ties and will also affect cooperation in other fields," Jia said. 

Amid the US' latest race-centered conflicts and massive campaign that renewed the centuries-old racial problems in the country, different institutes, experts and people living in Xinjiang say US finger pointing at China for so-called human rights issues is particularly ironic.

China urged the US to immediately correct its mistake and stop using the Xinjiang-related act to harm China's interests and interfere in its internal affairs. Otherwise, China will take countermeasures and the US must bear all the consequences, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The Xinjiang regional People's Congress said in a statement the same day that the law is a piece of waste paper and will be thrown in the garbage. The US has stood on the opposite side of the 1.4 million Chinese people and the justice and conscientiousness of humans.  

The Foreign Affairs Committee of China's top legislature, the National People's Congress, released a statement on Thursday condemning US violations of China's domestic affairs and international laws.

"Xinjiang has not experienced any terrorist attacks for more than three years, which is good for 25 million residents in Xinjiang. This is the best way to respect human rights!"

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference said in a statement on Thursday that US attempts to use human rights as an excuse to pamper terrorist forces, put pressure on China and destroy the Xinjiang region's stability will fail.   

Outside pressure would only make the Chinese people united, and no force can stop the national rejuvenation, the statement said. 

When reached by the Global Times and asked if he had heard of the US  "Uygur bill," through which US politicians claim to support "oppressed" ethnic groups in Xinjiang, Memet, a grassroots public civil servant in Hotan of Xinjiang burst into laughter and asked, "Could these US politicians or the bill help villagers in Xinjiang raise more sheep or cows to get rid of poverty, or build a better house or earn more money?"

"My villagers and I are very busy improving our lives, and we have no time for insignificant noise from the US. I also learned that there are riots in the US right now. If the US president and politicians care so much about human rights, why don't they first care about Americans around them?" Memet asked. 

Entangled in domestic problems

Amid nationwide protests and the spread of COVID-19, the US insisted on passing its Uygur bill, a move that experts said aims to divert public attention. 

Wang Jiang, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Law under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the so-called overwhelming vote on the Uygur bill in the Senate and the House may be because many politicians are "kidnapped" by so-called political correctness. Although the Uygur bill was passed, the majority of US politicians may have little knowledge of Xinjiang.

Wang said that some US politicians have played anti-China pioneers by utilizing Xinjiang in an attempt to seek personal political gain. He noted that some US politicians have been misled and engulfed by misinformation spread by anti-China media or "East Turkistan" separatists in the US. 

Zhu said that interfering in China's domestic affairs has become an established strategy of the Trump administration and US politicians. Since 2017, 21 bills have been put forward in the US on China's core interests in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan. And all the bills have been based on lies and groundless accusations.

In recent weeks, thousands of protesters in the US were out on the streets calling for human rights protection and justice for George Floyd, an African American who died as a result of police brutality on May 25. They were met with pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and heavy blows from the police. No US politicians stood up to yell that "human rights should be protected" as they do while trying to interfere in China's policies in Xinjiang. 

Some US politicians hailed the passage of the Uygur bill, which allows the US to impose sanctions on Chinese officials who they believe "violate human rights." On the day the bill was passed, 117,694 Americans lost their lives in the COVID-19 epidemic due to the US government's inefficient response. 

Zhu told the Global Times that race problems have been rooted in the US since its founding. Racial discrimination has been banned by law on the surface, but racial inequality in the distribution of social resources and implicit discrimination toward people of color never truly ended in the US. The coronavirus death and infection rates among ethnic minorities in the US are much higher than those of white people.

Racial discrimination in the US has become the biggest shame and failure in the history of human rights, experts say. The US should reflect on its own problems so that its current crisis does not become another stain on its history, Zhu said. 

Turkish journalist Erkin Oncan told the Global Times that the US has always tried to destabilize independent countries using "human rights and freedom." The US and its politicians do not care about the people of Xinjiang, and their purpose in passing the Uygur bill is to weaken and contain China. 

The US is a country where racism, xenophobia and far-right views are widespread. When millions in the US protest racism, politicians accuse others of "violating human rights." That is ironic and reveals the hypocrisy of US politicians, he said. 

Overseas separatists and "East Turkistan" forces may consider the passage of the Uygur bill as a "phased victory," but nothing good will come of this. Although the legislation has been enacted, to what extent it will be implemented remains unknown. China will also complete its legislation on safeguarding national security, and will not stop cracking down on separatism, terrorism and extremism.

In response to US long-armed jurisdiction, some Chinese scholars proposed that China take countermeasures. 

Diao Daming, a China-US relations expert at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times in December that China could list US companies, which followed the US sanctions on companies over China's Xinjiang policies, into its own entity list. 

Wang told the Global Times that it is not necessary to follow the US' every step, and China's countermeasures to such US bills would be more powerful. 

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