'No meaningful action': Members of Congress slam Trump administration for ignoring China bio-tracking and locking up its Muslim minority

Xinjiang policeKevin Frayer/Getty Images

  • Bipartisan members of Congress slammed the Trump administration for not punishing China over its unprecedented crackdown on the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang, western China.
  • "It appears that the Administration has taken no meaningful action", they said in a joint letter.
  • Chinese authorities were recently caught using US technology to take DNA From millions of Uighurs under the guise of free health tests.
  • The lawmakers want President Donald Trump's administration to impose sanctions on China and its use of US technology in Xinjiang.

Bipartisan members of Congress slammed President Donald Trump's administration its inaction in the face of China's severe oppression of its Muslim minority, the Uighurs.

Four US Representatives - two Democrats and two Republicans - published an open letter complaining that the White House has "taken no meaningful action" to address the human rights abuses.

Over the past two years China has been cracking down on Uighurs, a mostly-Muslim ethnic group in the western frontier region of Xinjiang.

Beijing has waged counterterrorism campaigns against the Uighurs for at least ten years, but recently amped up its surveillance measures, likely to protect their investments and relationships with nearby countries.

Xinjiang checkpointIn this Nov. 3, 2017, photo, residents walk through a security checkpoint into the Hotan Bazaar where a screen shows Chinese President Xi Jinping in Hotan in western China's Xinjiang region.AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

In the letter, addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, four members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) criticized the Trump administration for appearing to abandon a promise to explore sanctions on China over its human rights record in Xinjiang.

As many as 2 million Uighurs are currently imprisoned in prison-like camps in Xinjiang, according to State Department statistics. Witnesses and former detainees have described filthy conditions and physical and psychological torture.

Read more: Shocking footage purportedly shows cells inside prison camp where China oppresses Muslim minority

The letter said: "It appears that the Administration has taken no meaningful action in response to the situation in the XUAR, and we write today with a renewed sense of urgency on this serious matter." XUAR stands for Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

"Uyghur" is an alternative spelling. Some Uighurs also refer to the area as East Turkestan.

The letter was co-signed by Rep. Elliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the HFAC; Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California; Rep. Ted Yoho, a Republican from Florida; and Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey.

thermo fisher massachusetts hqThe headquarters of Thermo Fisher Scientific in Waltham, Massachusetts.Google Maps

Xinjiang's US connection

The congressmen specifically mentioned reports that Beijing employs US talent to oppress Uighurs, particularly in the realm of bio-hacking and imprisonment.

The New York Times reported last month that China had been using equipment from Thermo Fisher, a Massachusetts biotech company, to collect DNA samples from millions Uighurs under the guise of a free health check.

Earlier this year Reuters also reported that a Hong Kong-listed company, which has Blackwater founder Erik Prince as a board member and shareholder, signed a preliminary memorandum to build some sort of training center in Xinjiang.

Details of the memorandum remain scant, and Prince claimed that he had "no knowledge or involvement" in the signing of the deal.

Trump XiPresident Donald Trump welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago state in Palm Beach, Florida.Reuters/Carlos Barria

In Monday's letter, the HFAC congressmen also called on the White House to provide a detailed response on whether it monitors the use of US technology in China that could be used for oppression.

They also asked whether US companies are providing technology or security training for security personnel in Xinjiang, among others.

The members of Congress hope to impose sanctions on Chinese officials under the Global Magnitsky Act, a law that allows the US government to punish human rights offenders by freezing their assets and restricting their travel.

Last November another bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill in the Senate which called on the White House to condemn China's persecution in Xinjiang, for a "special coordinator" of US policy on Uighurs, and consider Magnitsky Act sanctions.

Actions on the legislation, named the "Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2018," appear to have stalled.

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