New U.S. Law to Protect Muslims in China. India Warned to Protect Muslims

Brinda Karat meeting people affected by Delhi violence. Photo: CPI(M)
Brinda Karat meeting people affected by Delhi violence. Photo: CPI(M)

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) commends the passage of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act (S.3744) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate approved the bill by unanimous consent on May 14.

“USCIRF thanks Representatives Smith, McGovern, and Sherman and Senators Rubio and Menendez for their bipartisan, bicameral leadership on this bill, as well as all the Members of Congress who supported it,” noted USCIRF Commissioner Gary Bauer. “We urge President Trump to sign the bill into law as soon as possible.”

Once signed by the president, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act would make U.S. concerns about the persecution of Uyghur Muslims part of official U.S. policy toward China.


The USCIRF is planning to pass similar law against India where the state excesses on Muslims have been increasing under the government headed by Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi. In April this year, the USCIRF had observed that religious freedom violations are increasing under the Modi government.

In its 2020 Annual Report released on April 28, USCIRF has said that there is a sharp downward turn in India as the national (Modi) government used its strengthened parliamentary majority to institute national-level policies violating religious freedom across India, especially for Muslims.

Now if Modi and his party BJP continued human rights violations despite warnings, the U.S. will impose trade and travel sanctions on India and the Indian leadership including Modi.

USCIRF has already recommended sanctions against Modi’s colleague the Home Minister Amit Shah and other principal leadership. Earlier, on USCIRF’s recommendation, the U.S. had banned Modi’s entry into the U.S. for his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots in which nearly 2,000 people – mostly Muslims – were murdered in a pogrom.

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. government advisory body that monitors religious freedom abroad and makes policy recommendations to the U.S. President, Secretary of State, and the U.S. Congress.

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The new law targeting China would direct the U.S. administration to impose financial sanctions and visa bans under the Global Magnitsky Act against Chinese government officials responsible for the persecution of Uyghur and other Muslims.

In addition, the bill would require the State Department to report on human rights abuses in Xinjiang—including formal estimates of the number of individuals detained in concentration camps—and the FBI to submit a report to Congress on attempts by Chinese government agents to intimidate and harass Uyghurs and Chinese nationals legally residing in the United States.

In December 2019, the U.S. Congress had passed a legislation to condemn the human rights abuses by China. The new Act called the Uighur Intervention and Global Humanitarian Unified Response (UIGHUR) Act of 2019, which passed on a 406 – 1 vote, particularly pertains to China’s excess on millions of Uighur (alternately: Uyghurs or Uygurs) Muslims.

“Today the human dignity and human rights of the Uighur community are under threat from Beijing – Beijing’s barbarous actions, which are an outrage to the collective conscience of the world,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said in a statement issued on December 3.

Across the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, the Uighur people and other Muslim minorities face brutal repression: a pervasive state of mass surveillance, including the arbitrary and non-consensual collection of children’s DNA; the mass incarceration of one to three million innocent people with beatings, solitary confinement, deprivation of food and medical treatment; forced sterilizations and other forms of tortures; incidents of mass shootings and extrajudicial killings and the intimidation and suppression of journalists courageously exposing the truth.

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“The world has stood by for too long as the Chinese government detained millions of Muslims in concentration camps,” USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel added. “The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act would be the first major legislation focused on promoting the rights of Uyghur and other Muslims. Hopefully, other countries will follow the U.S. government’s lead and take action on this issue.”

In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF called upon the U.S. administration to use its authority under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and the International Religious Freedom Act to impose targeted sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for severe religious freedom violations, especially Chen Quanguo, the current Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang.

In February 2020, USCIRF released a factsheet explaining how the Chinese government’s new Administrative Measures for Religious Groups could further restrict religious freedom.

USCIRF also has called for the release of Gulmira Imin, a Uyghur activist and one of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience, and all other Muslims detained by Chinese authorities because of their religious affiliation.

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Rakesh Raman