China warns US over Uighur bill

December 05, 2019 09:34
A US legislative push that would require Washington to toughen its stance against China's alleged excesses in the Xinjiang region adds to the already strained relationship between the two nations amid a trade impasse. Photo: Reuters

China warned on Wednesday that US legislation calling for a tougher response to Beijing's treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority will affect bilateral cooperation, Reuters reports.

"Do you think if America takes actions to hurt China’s interests we won’t take any action?” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was quoted as saying when asked whether the Uighur bill would affect the Sino-US trade negotiations.

"I think any wrong words and deeds must pay the due price."

The comments came a day after the after the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the Uighur Act of 2019 that would require the Trump administration to condemn alleged abuses by China against its Muslim minority, and calls for the closure of mass detention camps in its western region of Xinjiang.

The bill, which still requires passage by the Senate before being sent to Trump, also calls on the US president to impose sanctions for the first time on a member of China’s powerful politburo, Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo.

Beijing called the bill a malicious attack on China, demanded the United States keep it from becoming law and said it would act to defend its interests as necessary.

Vice Foreign Minister Qin Gang made "stern representations" to William Klein, minister counselor for political affairs in the US embassy in Beijing, and urged the US to stop interfering in China’s domestic affairs, state TV reported.

Reuters cited sources as saying that the US Uighur bill could jeopardize the so-called phase-one Sino-US trade deal that is already fraught with disagreements and complications.

With a new round of US tariffs on Chinese goods scheduled to take effect in less than two weeks, the possibility of another breakdown is growing, the report noted.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Tuesday that staff-level trade negotiations with China were continuing but no high-level trade talks had been scheduled.

Planned US tariffs on remaining Chinese imports will take effect on Dec. 15 barring significant progress in the talks, or a deal, he said.

Hua said China would set no timeline or deadline for a trade deal and would take “decisive” countermeasures to defend its interests if what she called US protectionism and bullying over trade continued.

She did not elaborate on what the measures might be.

A Chinese official who declined to be identified warned that US implementation of the new round of tariffs scheduled on Dec. 15 would be countered by China with retaliatory tariffs.

The White House has yet to say whether Trump would sign or veto the Uighur bill, which contains a provision allowing the president to waive sanctions if he determines that to be in the national interest.

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