The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to condemn and punish China for its human rights abuses of Uighurs.
The 245-137 vote gave the Democratic Party the support it needed to pass H.R. 1, the Uighur Human Rights Preservation Act.
The vote comes on the same day the White House released a report on human rights around the world. The report found a new wave of repression in Myanmar, including its security forces allegedly participating in attacks on the ethnic minority Rohingya population. The Myanmar regime has thus far denied responsibility for the violence, saying the civilian militias the military leaves behind are responsible.
H.R. 1 renews calls for accountability for China’s response to the large-scale protests by the Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic minority in western China.
The Uighurs have been encamped in internment camps, which are touted as “re-education centers” but activists have described as concentration camps. Human rights experts say there are anywhere from 12,000 to over 300,000 Uighurs being held.
The United States and most Western countries have been unwilling to recognize the camps and condemn the Chinese government for its human rights violations, including shunning of Uighur organizations that operate within those countries.
The House passed an amendment that tied the measures to China’s trading status with the United States. It mandated that the administration report back to Congress every year on China’s human rights violations. The report must also detail what steps the United States has taken to ensure the Chinese government will make changes.
The measure passed was sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who had drawn criticism from some in his own party. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., stood against the bill, saying it would do nothing to protect Uighurs and adds more costs to American companies doing business in China.
“China is a great power. It should be treated as such,” Cooper said. “We’re abusing American companies in a way that sends the wrong message to all people in the world: What good is international companies doing if we won’t assist them if they want to be good human rights citizens?”
Some lawmakers who opposed the bill complained that it unfairly singled out one group of people for punishment by taking away their trade status from China.
“These are the exact people who are doing the beating, are the very bad people. I find it unbelievable that you would even pass something like this in our country,” said Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan.
Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., voted in favor of the bill. President Trump sent a letter to the house requesting the measures.
“I urge the House to pass these bills immediately,” Trump wrote. “This is truly a great example of cooperation among our nations and I thank you for joining me in seeking to uphold the ideals of freedom and justice for all people.”
The Fox Business Network’s Allana Goldman contributed to this report.