Washington: The U.S. Senate is planning to move on legislation that would impose sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights abuses against Muslim minorities, an action sure to anger Beijing and one that signals rising anti-China sentiment in Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor last week the chamber would take up legislation aimed at punishing China for its treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority. Senate leaders are checking with members to see if there are any objections so that it could be taken up for quick passage, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The bill, sponsored by Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, could come to the floor as soon as this week.
“The United States is going to be asking tough questions about our relationship with the Chinese Communist Party,” McConnell said. Rubio’s bill “will bring more attention to the plight of this mistreated minority and I urge the president to use targeted sanctions against those responsible for their repression.”
The House passed an amended version of the legislation in December but concerns over export controls added to the legislation — and a pending impeachment trial, among other pressing concerns, slowed things down.
The Senate will act on a version of bill that does not include export-control language added by the House, according to two of the people, all of whom asked for anonymity to discuss private deliberations. The House will have to vote on the legislation again before it goes to President Donald Trump for his signature or veto.
The outbreak of a global pandemic has focused Republican efforts to increase pressure on the Chinese government on several fronts.
Eight Republican Senators, led by Lindsey Graham, introduced legislation that would allow Trump to impose sanctions on China if the government does not cooperate with an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.
If the president can’t certify that China has cooperated with a probe, hasn’t closed so-called wet markets and hasn’t released pro-democracy activists arrested during post-outbreak crackdowns, the legislation would authorize a range of sanctions, including asset freezes, travel bans and prohibiting Chinese companies from being listed on U.S. stock exchanges.
Separetly, House Republicans last week formed a task force on China led by Michael McCaul, the top GOP member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The task force has an October deadline for a report on the virus and the Chinese government.
Republican attorneys general from 18 states on May 9 wrote to McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with other members of the congressional leadership, to ask for hearings into China’s role in the pandemic.
“We must all hold China accountable for the devastation and destruction caused by COVID-19,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson wrote.
The Senate Uighur legislation has 50 co-sponsors in the Senate, including members of both parties. It passed the House in December on a vote of 407 to 1.-Bloomberg