China in reaction said it resolutely opposes the US House of Representatives' bill requiring the Trump administration to toughen its response to what the bill called China's crackdown on ethnic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
Congress overwhelmingly approved a bill on Tuesday aimed at pressuring China over a brutal mass crackdown on ethnic Muslims in the far west of the country, legislation that follows a similar measure over human rights abuses in Hong Kong that angered the Chinese government.
The House of Representatives voted 407-1 to approve the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, which has already passed the Senate.
China protested the US bill early on Wednesday.
The legislation condemns the detention of more than 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other minorities in so-called reeducation camps, where they are subjected to political indoctrination, torture, beatings, and food deprivation, as well as denial of religious and linguistic freedom.
It would require the State Department to evaluate whether Chinese officials would meet the criteria for sanctions for their roles in the crackdown in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
“The Chinese Government and Communist Party is working to systematically wipe out the ethnic and cultural identities of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang," said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of the backers of the legislation.
“Today, Congress took another important step to hold Chinese officials accountable for egregious and ongoing human rights abuses."
'Wantonly smears China'
Beijing called on the United States to prevent the bill from becoming law and warned – without elaborating – that it would respond "according to the development of the situation."
The bill "deliberately denigrates China's human rights situation in Xinjiang, wantonly smears China's efforts to eliminate extremism and combat terrorism (and) viciously attacks the Chinese government's policy of governing Xinjiang," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
The Chinese state-owned tabloid The Global Times quoted experts as saying Beijing will take "strong countermeasures" – including releasing an "unreliable entity list" that could sanction and restrict some US entities in the country, and imposing sanctions on US officials.
Hua urged the US to “immediately correct its mistakes“ and warned that China will respond accordingly.
Rights groups and witnesses accuse China of forcibly trying to draw Uighurs away from their Islamic customs and integrate them into the majority Han culture.
Last month, Congress passed — and President Donald Trump signed — legislation supporting anti-government protests in Hong Kong. China said on Monday that it will suspend US military ship and aircraft visits to the semi-autonomous city and sanction several American pro-democracy and human rights groups in response to the move.