China condemns US after House passes Uighur crackdown bill

Beijing: China on Wednesday came down heavily on the United States after the House of Representatives approved a bill that would require the Trump administration to toughen its response to Beijing's crackdown on its Muslim minority in Xinjiang, mostly ethnic Uighurs, who are being held in re-education camps.

In a statement released shortly after the Uighur Act of 2019 was passed, China's foreign ministry condemned the move, saying the bill "wantonly smears China's efforts to eliminate and combat extremism", Al Jazeera reported.

"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," foreign ministry's spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said in the statement.

The Uighur Act of 2019 is a stronger version of a bill that calls on the US President to impose sanctions for the first time on a member of China's powerful politburo, Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, even as Trump tries to reach a deal with Beijing to end the months-long trade war.

The legislation also requires the US president to condemn abuse against Muslims and call for the closure of the camps in Xinjiang.

"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," he added.

China has consistently denied any mistreatment of Uighurs and says the camps are providing vocational training. It has warned of retaliation "in proportion" if Chen is targeted.

The bill on Xinjiang follows similar legislation related to Hong Kong, which Trump signed into law last week in the face of vocal opposition from China.

The development came after the 'China Cables'-- a set of classified documents-- were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a global network of investigative journalists based in Washington- show how Uighurs are being locked up, indoctrinated and punished inside high-security detention camps far western region of Xinjiang.

Meanwhile, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi called China's treatment of the Uighurs "an outrage to the collective conscience of the world." "America is watching," she said.