May 14, 2020 / 8:54 PM / in 14 days

U.S. Senate approves bill to pressure China over Uighur rights

WASHINGTON, May 14 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate approved legislation on Thursday calling on President Donald Trump’s administration to toughen its response to China’s crackdown on its Uighur Muslim minority, the latest push in Washington to punish China as Trump blames Beijing for worsening the coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican-led Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent, without a roll-call vote.

Passage sends the measure to the Democratic-led House of Representatives, which must approve it before it is sent to the White House for Trump to sign into law or veto.

The House overwhelmingly approved its own legislation late last year responding to the treatment of the Uighurs. That measure called for sanctions against senior Chinese officials responsible for the crackdown on Muslims in the Xinjiang province, angering China.

The United Nations estimates more than a million Muslim Uighurs have been detained in camps in Xinjiang in recent years. China denies mistreatment of Uighurs and says the camps provide vocational training.

The push for stronger U.S. action on the Uighurs comes as relations steadily worsen between the Trump administration and Beijing over the global COVID-19 pandemic. Washington has blamed much of the health crisis’ devastating impact on China’s lack of transparency about the initial outbreak there.

China denies mishandling the outbreak. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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