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House China panel submits recommendations on Taiwan, abuse of Uyghurs

Republicans have spearheaded the congressional effort to shine a spotlight on Beijing, but the findings of the lower chamber’s select committee enjoy bipartisan support.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A temporary House committee on China became a beacon of bipartisan good feelings Wednesday as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle voted to approve a pair of reports that, among other things, urged Washington to take a stronger stance on Beijing’s treatment of the country's Uyghur ethnic minority.

The House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, formed in January after Republicans took control of the lower chamber of Congress, is designed to help guide U.S. policy toward China. The panel has held a series of hearings aimed at gaming out a Chinese invasion of Taiwan and publicizing what the international community has broadly decried as a state-sponsored genocide in China against its Uyghur population.

That work bore fruit for the first time Wednesday as the panel passed two committee reports — packages of policy recommendations that don’t carry the force of law — by unanimous voice vote.

Policymakers praised the bipartisan effort to spur China-focused legislation in Congress. Illinois Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Democratic ranking member on the select committee, said he did not know of any other temporary panel that had taken a similar path.

Wisconsin Republican Mike Gallagher, who chairs the committee, concurred — adding that members had worked into the evening on Tuesday to make sure that there was bipartisan consensus on both reports.

“It’s not easy, nobody gets 100% of what they want, but that is the goal,” Gallagher said. “I think it would send a powerful message, particularly in the current moment, to have a strong bipartisan message coming out of this committee.”

South Dakota Republican Dusty Johnson concurred, calling the panel’s efforts a “clarion call” for bipartisan work in the future.

“I think the four corners of these two documents speak for themselves,” Johnson said, “but I think what is most impressive is the extent to which they built on the real, sustained and thoughtful engagement of this committee.”

In its policy recommendations, the committee provided what Krishnamoorthi called a blueprint for congressional action on China’s treatment of Uyghurs, the mostly Muslim ethnic group centered largely in the country’s northwestern province of Xinjiang.

For years the Chinese government's pattern of abuse and surveillance against Uyghurs has sparked international condemnation. For its part, Beijing insists that the concentration camps where it has been shown to confine members of the minority group in Xinjiang Province are “vocational education training centers.”

During a March hearing in the House select committee, lawmakers heard firsthand testimony from Uyghur Muslim women who had been kept in such camps and described forced sterilizations and abortions at the hands of Chinese authorities. Members also pointed to leaked internal documents and satellite imagery that they said furnished further evidence that human rights abuses were indeed taking place in Xinjiang.

“The genocide is real,” Krishnamoorthi said Wednesday, “and it is not too late to confront these atrocities so that ‘never again’ becomes a reality.”

Based on the evidence it gathered, the committee’s report suggests legislation that would enforce sanctions on Chinese technology companies that it says enable the government’s ability to surveil the Uyghur population. The government should also provide resources to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency to identify goods coming from China that may have been produced with forced labor, the report said.

Meanwhile, the committee on Wednesday advanced a separate package of recommendations based on its review of China’s policy toward Taiwan. Alongside the Center for a New American Security, a foreign policy think tank, the panel carried out a tabletop exercise in April that simulated an invasion of Taiwan.

Committee Chair Gallagher said that the results of that simulation laid bare the need for immediate congressional action to shore up U.S. interests in the Pacific region while maintaining peace between China and Taipei.

“Neither Taiwan nor the United States seeks to change the status quo across the [Taiwan] Strait,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “A peaceful order has enabled the economic rise of countries across Asia. Only Beijing seeks to upend the status quo.”

Beijing has for decades claimed Taiwan as part of its sovereign territory. While the U.S. does not formally recognize the island as an independent country, Washington and Taipei have strong unofficial relations.

Among the China committee’s recommendations for Taiwan policy, the panel advised Congress to clear the $19 billion backlog in defense spending for Taipei’s self-defense forces. The U.S. defense production apparatus should also begin building and stockpiling long-range munitions such as anti-ship missiles, which the committee found would quickly be in short supply during a confrontation with China over Taiwan.

Lawmakers further recommended that the U.S. incentivize its allies to use economic sanctions to put pressure on Beijing in advance of a possible invasion.

Although the select committee’s policy recommendations are not presented as legislation that could become law during this session of Congress, members on the panel argued that their suggestions for deterring Chinese aggression toward Taiwan could be added to the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, the federal defense budget that Congress is considering.

“There’s existing NDAA language that you can point to that says we’ve got to make sure that this is fully implemented,” Virginia Republican Rob Wittman said. “There’s still a window for us to get things done in the NDAA.”

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