“This issue is bigger than just China. It is about demonstrating to strongmen globally that the world will hold them accountable for their actions,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The group is led by Eliot Engel, Democratic chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and includes Republican ranking member Representative Ted Yoho.
Pompeo wrote to the committee on Sept. 28 saying his department was looking into a request for sanctions on those responsible for abuses and for controls on exports of technology that facilitates mass detentions and surveillance of ethnic minorities in western China’s Xinjiang region, the letter said.
“It appears that the Administration has taken no meaningful action ... and we write today with a renewed sense of urgency on this serious matter,” said the letter, also signed by Brad Sherman, Democratic chairman of the Asia and Pacific subcommittee, and Chris Smith, Republican ranking member of the human rights subcommittee.
The U.S. ambassador for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, told reporters the issue was “being discussed thoroughly within the administration,” but he had no new steps to announce.
Brownback spoke at a Capitol Hill event to mark the formation of the Coalition to Advance Religious Freedom in China, a multi-faith group of over a dozen religious and rights organizations established to campaign against persecution.
A spokeswoman for the State Department said it remained “deeply disturbed that since April 2017, the Chinese government has detained more than one million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims in internment camps.”
“We will continue to call on China to end these counterproductive policies, free all those arbitrarily detained, and cease efforts to coerce members of its Muslim minority groups residing abroad to return to China to face an uncertain fate,” she said.
China denies the allegations.