Beijing on Thursday slammed a new US law that would sanction Chinese officials over the mass incarceration of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, saying it "maliciously attacks" China's policy in the Xinjiang region.
China will "resolutely hit back and the US will bear the burden of all subsequent consequences", the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement after US President Donald Trump signed the Uighur Human Rights Act into law Wednesday.
The legislation, which passed Congress almost unanimously, requires the US administration to determine which Chinese officials are responsible for the "arbitrary detention, torture and harassment" of Uighurs and other minorities.
The United States would then freeze any assets the officials hold in the world's largest economy and ban their entry into the country.
China's foreign ministry said in a statement that the act "rudely interferes in China's internal affairs", and urged the US to "immediately correct its mistakes".
"This so-called act deliberately slanders the human rights situation in Xinjiang and maliciously attacks China's policy in governing Xinjiang," the ministry said.
Activists say China has rounded up at least one million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims and is trying to forcibly assimilate them by wiping out their culture and punishing basic Islamic practices.
Beijing counters that it is running vocational educational centres that offer an alternative to Islamic extremism.
Trump signed the act just as excerpts emerged from an explosive new book by his former national security advisor John Bolton, who said the president told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that he approved of the vast detention camps.
President Donald Trump signed legislation on Wednesday calling for sanctions over the repression of China’s Uighur Muslims, as excerpts from a book by former US national security adviser John Bolton alleged that Trump encouraged China’s president to continue with detention camps for the minority group.
The bill, which Congress passed with only one “no” vote, was intended to send China a strong message on human rights by mandating sanctions against those responsible for oppression of members of China’s Muslim minority.
The United Nations estimates that more than a million Muslims have been detained in camps in the Xinjiang region. The US State Department has accused Chinese officials of subjecting Muslims to torture, abuse “and trying to basically erase their culture and their religion.” China denies mistreatment and says the camps provide vocational training.
Trump signed the bill as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held his first face-to-face meeting since last year with China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi.
Trump issued a signing statement that some of the bill’s requirements might limit his constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy so he would regard them as advisory, not mandatory.
Trump did not hold a ceremony to mark his signing, which came as newspapers published excerpts the new book by his former national security adviser, Bolton.
Among other allegations, the book says Trump sought Chinese President Xi Jinping’s help to win re-election during a closed-door 2019 meeting and that Trump said Xi should go ahead with building the camps in Xinjiang.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Uighur law for the first time calls for sanctions on a member of China’s powerful Politburo, Xinjiang’s Communist Party secretary, Chen Quanguo, as responsible for “gross human rights violations.” It also calls on US companies operating in Xinjiang to take steps to ensure they do not use parts made with forced labour.