US House passes 3 bills on China human rights, Asia-Pacific cooperation


Three pieces of US legislation focused on China’s human rights situation and US security cooperation with Asia-Pacific allies cleared the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Thursday.
The first of the three, introduced by California Republican Young Kim, authorises further action to protect China’s Uygur populations from alleged human rights abuses, including appointing a “special coordinator for Uygur issues” in the US State Department. It passed 414-6.
The second, sponsored by Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern, amends the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 – which codified much of US political and programmatic support for Tibet – to authorise efforts to counter Beijing’s disinformation about the autonomous region. It passed 392-28.
The third, sponsored by the lead Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Gregory Meeks, establishes an inter-parliamentary working group between Washington and the three other member countries of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue: Australia, India and Japan. It passed 379-39.
This follows the House’s passage of a bill on Tuesday that restricts funds from the State Department and America’s international development agency (USAID) from flowing into China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
Now the bills must pass the full Democratic-controlled Senate before heading to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.
Speaking on the House floor earlier in the week, Kim stressed that her bill, The Uygur Policy Act of 2023, would address shortcomings in the US’s existing approach to human rights abuses in Xinjiang, home to most of China’s Uygur population.
In addition to authorising funding for advocates to speak in majority-Muslim countries, the bill mandates Uygur language instruction at the State Department’s training institute for its diplomats.
It further directs the US government’s overseas media agency to disseminate information about Beijing’s violation of Uygur human rights – violations that Beijing has repeatedly denied.
“Chairman Xi is trying to rebrand Xinjiang as a business and tourist destination and seeks to erase Uygurs from the international community’s memory,” Kim said, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In supporting McGovern’s bill, Kim noted that the same erasure was being imposed on Tibetans.
The Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act would make it official US policy that “Tibet” refers not only to the autonomous region as defined by the Chinese government but also the Tibetan areas of Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.
While Washington considers Tibet part of the People’s Republic of China, it does not hold that Beijing’s control over the region is consistent with international law.
Meeks, speaking earlier in the week about his bill, Strengthening the Quad Act, said “China’s growing global influence and authoritarian model is serving to undermine freedom in the Indo-Pacific and beyond”.
“We need to work with fellow democracies in the region to showcase open markets and open societies,” he added.
The Quad was established in 2004 for humanitarian and disaster relief efforts, but remained largely dormant until 2017.
Resurrected by then-US president Donald Trump as a group of democracies against an “autocratic” China, the alliance has since been embraced by Biden as part of his Indo-Pacific Strategy.
In March 2021, Biden elevated the group to the leaders’ level and hosted the first-ever Quad leaders’ summit.
Meeks on Wednesday said his bill would “help sustain political support and adequate resources for the Quad in all four countries”.


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