U.S. bill to pressure China over Uighur rights goes to Trump for decision

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation on Wednesday calling for sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for oppression of Uighur Muslims, sending the bill to the White House for President Donald Trump to veto or sign into law.

FILE PHOTO: Police officers wearing face masks guard the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., May 14, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott

The tally was 413-1. The near-unanimous support in Congress - the Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent - puts pressure on Trump to impose human rights sanctions on China.

Although Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress said they expected he would sign the bill, the White House has not yet indicated whether he will do so. Aides did not respond to requests for comment.

The bill calls for sanctions against those responsible for repression of Uighurs and other Muslim groups in China’s Xinjiang province, where the United Nations estimates that more than a million Muslims have been detained in camps.

It singles out the region’s Communist Party secretary, Chen Quanguo, a member of China’s powerful Politburo, as responsible for “gross human rights violations” against them.

“Congress sent a clear message that the Chinese government cannot act with impunity,” said Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who led the push for the legislation.

Relations between Trump and China’s government have become increasingly tense in recent weeks as Trump has blamed Beijing for worsening the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill also calls on U.S. companies or individuals operating in the Xinjiang region to take steps to ensure their products do not include parts using forced labor.

“Today, with this overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation, the United States Congress is taking a firm step to counter Beijing’s horrific human rights abuses against the Uighurs,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

China denies mistreatment and says the camps provide vocational training.

The vote on Wednesday was historic, the first use of proxy voting because of the pandemic.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sandra Maler, David Gregorio and Cynthia Osterman