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Congressional Commission 'Standing in Solidarity with the Muslims' Tortured by China

Police officers patrol in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China in February 2018. (Kyodo)

WASHINGTON — Human rights in China are bad and “getting worse by the day under Xi Jinping,” the Congressional-Executive Commission on China found in their new annual report on the rule of law in the communist country.

Co-chairman Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said at a Wednesday press conference announcing the report that it “ought to be required reading for everyone who is concerned about China, both in the State Department, at the White House, certainly within the media, and all people of good will who wish only the best for the men and women and children of China, who are suffering under a brutal dictatorship.”

“China’s government and Communist Party have become more repressive in domestic politics, more mercantilist in trade and economic policy, increasingly dismissive of international norms, and more assertive in spreading their model of authoritarian governance globally,” Smith said.

The commission’s Political Prisoner Database, as of Sept. 1, contains information on 9,345 past (releases, executions, in-custody deaths, escapes) and current cases of political or religious imprisonment in China, but stresses it’s far from complete. “The Commission notes that there are considerably more than 1,392 cases of current political and religious imprisonment in China,” states the report. “Commission staff work on an ongoing basis to add cases of political and religious imprisonment to the PPD.”

“The Chinese government has intensified its most severe crackdown on all religious faiths since the Cultural Revolution. Xi Jinping has personally launched efforts to what he calls ‘Sinicize’ religion. And the central government has issued commands to each provincial party secretary making them responsible to bring religion in line with Communist Party ideology,” Smith said.

That includes Uyghurs, or Chinese Muslims, Tibetan monks, Christians and the Falun Gong movement.

“If you don’t comport with the Communist Party principle and adapt everything you do to the ideology of Xi Jinping, you are going to be arrested. You are going to be tortured. And in many cases, you are going to be killed,” Smith noted.

Of the on-again, off-again rapprochement between President Trump and Xi Jinping, Smith said, “When you so grossly mistreat your own people and your own citizens, we care about them first. Get the human rights part right and the friendship and the dialog will accelerate between the United States and, of course, with the Chinese government.”

Co-chairman Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the mandate of the commission “remains pressing and urgently necessary as evidenced by the dire human rights situation inside of China and the continued downward trajectory.”

“Today, what we see is an ascendant and increasingly aggressive China, seeking to not just supplant the United States on the world stage, but reshape global norms on development, trade, the internet, and even human rights,” Rubio said, stressing that the past year’s “unprecedented repression of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region” may “constitute crimes against humanity.”

“Technology plays a central role in China’s gross human rights violations, where a digital surveillance state is working to transform, for example, in Xinjiang, the religious and ethnic identities of local Muslim ethnic minorities,” he added.

As many as a million Chinese Muslims are being held in communist “re-education camps” and orphanages are crowded with children ripped from Uyghur parents.

The commission’s recommendations “are timely in light of the administration’s publicly-stated intention to reset the bilateral relationship with China and arrive at a proper balance,” Rubio said.

“First, embed human rights throughout our bilateral relations. Second, prioritize reciprocity in every area of our bilateral relationship, including diplomacy, trade, investment, media, and cultural and academic exchanges. It’s very simple. We should be treating them and their companies, their government, their products, their services, the same way they treat us,” the senator continued.

“Third, holding Chinese officials accountable for abuses through sanctions and visa denials and the like. Fourth, promoting internet freedom and counter foreign disinformation here and abroad. And fifth, revamp export controls to ensure that American technology is not being used to commit or facilitate gross rights violations.”

The bipartisan Xinjian Uyghur Human Rights Act introduced this week nominates for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, founder of the website Uyghur Online who is currently serving a life sentence on charges of separatism.

Rubio also said the commission is calling upon FBI Director Christopher Wray to “review the unacceptable intimidation, threats, and targeting of Chinese, Uyghur, and Tibetan diaspora communities that are living here within the United States.”

“The commission often received accounts from these communities, including Americans and legal permanent residents who are being harassed and threatened here,” he noted. “Here, in the United States. This manifestation of China’s long arm cannot, must not, and will not go unanswered.”

Smith emphasized that human rights “needs to be part of our trade policy — it needs to be part of every aspect of our foreign policy.”

The administration should also use the powers of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to go after perpetrators, the congressman said.

“Learn the lessons of the Nazis. You know, what did we do? What did so many do after the fall of the Third Reich? They hunted down the Nazis who spread out all across the world, in the name of justice. Whether they were in Argentina or wherever they were, they were — we were, collectively, our government and others, and the Israelis, in pursuit of those who had committed such abuse,” Smith said. “So, we have again, right now, tools. And we’re calling on the administration to use them.”

In addition to the White House, the commission is appealing to the United Nations and Muslim countries to help China’s repressed Uyghurs.

“We’re standing in solidarity with the Muslims who are being horribly mistreated, killed, and tortured,” Smith said. “We’re asking every Islamic country and every country that’s in the world to speak out against China’s egregious practices now.”