Senators raise concerns regarding administration decisions to delay sanctions to allow for the conclusion of trade talks


Washington (June 27, 2019) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Ranking Member of its East Asia Subcommittee, was joined today by six Senate colleagues in calling on President Donald Trump to move forward with sanctions against Chinese officials for their abuses against Uyghurs and central Asian communities in Xinjiang. Recent reports indicate the Trump administration is avoiding approving the sanctions out of concern that they would disrupt ongoing trade talks. Specifically, the letter cites news reports that, while multiple federal agencies have approved these sanctions, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is blocking efforts to finalize and roll out the sanctions. The Senators’ letter also notes reports that President Trump asked Vice President Mike Pence to delay speeches that would have been critical of the Chinese government’s human rights record, noting the President’s concerns that the remarks would also jeopardize the President’s upcoming meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.  


“If accurate, the press reports are deeply troubling given the gravity of the situation,” write the Senators in their letter to President Trump.“Failing to address these egregious human rights violations weakens American moral leadership.  Further, the lack of action by the U.S. government sends a signal to authoritarian governments throughout the region — and beyond — that they can operate with impunity and face no consequences from the United States.  We strongly urge your administration to uphold fundamental human rights by moving expeditiously — and independently — to hold violators accountable.”


A copy of the letter can be found HERE.


The letter is also signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Bob Casey (D-Penn.).


The State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report stated, “Multiple media and NGOs estimated that since April 2017, the government detained at least 800,000 and up to possibly more than 2 million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other Muslim groups, mostly Chinese citizens, in specially built or converted detention facilities in Xinjiang and subjected them to forced disappearance, torture, physical abuse, and prolonged detention without trial because of their religion and ethnicity.” In discussing the report, U.S. Ambassador-at-large for religious freedom Sam Brownback said that the Chinese government’s persecution of religious minorities “should shock everyone’s conscience.”