On Monday, when Chinese state media suggested Beijing is prepared to release Xi’s long-rumored “unreliable entities” list targeting US companies in retaliation for a series of affronts to the Party, the Global Times said the decision had been expedited.
“[The] US House is expected to pass a Xinjiang-related bill that will harm Chinese firms’ interests, prompting China to speed up the move”, a tweet read.
Later, Hu Xijin elaborated in one of his now famous “based on what I know” social media posts.
“Based on what I know, since US Congress plans to pass Xinjiang-related bill, China is considering to impose visa restrictions on US officials and lawmakers who’ve had odious performance on Xinjiang issue”, Hu said, in broken English. “It might also ban all US diplomatic passport holders from entering Xinjiang”.
Fast forward 24 hours and those “odious” US lawmakers have, in fact, passed legislation that would mandate sanctions on Chinese officials found to be liable for the repression of Turkic Muslims. In other words, this is the Uighurs measure, and Beijing is not going to be happy about it.
The vote was 407-1. In September, a similar measure was passed in the Senate, and the two will need to be reconciled before the a final version can be sent to Trump’s desk. The Senate version was sponsored by Marco Rubio.
Under the House version, Trump would have four months from the time of the legislation’s enactment to submit to Congress a list of Chinese officials deemed responsible for, or complicit in, human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
“We are long past the point when this should have been done”, Brad Sherman, the California Democrat who championed the amended legislation, said on the House floor Tuesday. “It should not be linked to ongoing negotiations on trade or any other issue”.
Maybe not, but it is, and it will continue to be – linked, that is.
This comes less than two months after the US gave Hikvision the Huawei treatment, blacklisting the Chinese surveillance giant along with 28 public security bureaus and companies. That move was also a rebuke of China’s human rights record and specifically, Beijing’s treatment of the Uighurs. It was months in the making. Just a week after Trump blackballed Huawei in May, reports indicated Hikvision and other surveillance companies could be next.
Obviously, this is also set against the backdrop of the Hong Kong turmoil. Last week, Trump begrudgingly signed bipartisan legislation supporting the pro-democracy demonstrators. Hong Kong’s government and Beijing lambasted the move in shrill terms. On Monday, China announced sanctions against US NGOs in retaliation.
“By passing this bill, Congress is showing that the United States will not turn a blind eye to the suffering of the oppressed”, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, in a statement on Tuesday evening. “As with the Hong Kong Democracy and Human Rights Act, we are sending a simple but powerful message to the Communist Party: power cannot be maintained at the expense of the rights of the people without substantial consequences”.