Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act

May 27, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of S.3744, Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, legislation to impose sanctions on foreign individuals and entities responsible for human rights abuses in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding.  I thank him and Mr. McCaul and Mr. Engel, Members of – the Chair, Ranking Member and senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, for bringing this important legislation to the Floor.

It’s an honor to be here with all of you, with Mr. Suozzi, who has been a champion for religious rights throughout the world.  And Mr. Smith and I go back decades in our fight for human rights in China.  Whether it's Tibet, whether it's in Beijing, whether it's in Hong Kong, the list goes on and on.  I thank you for your ongoing leadership, Mr. Smith.  And I also thank the Chairman of the Committee, Mr. McGovern, Chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.  Mr. Smith is the Ranking Member of that [Congressional]-Executive Commission on China.  Thank you, Mr. Smith.

Today, in this House of Representatives, in a very strong, bipartisan way, we are sending a message to the persecuted that they are not forgotten.  We're saying to the President of China, you may tell these people that they are forgotten, but they are not.  And, on the Floor of the House of Representatives, in a bipartisan, bicameral legislation, we are here.  

We are here in support of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, strong, bipartisan legislation to address and defend the rights and dignity of the Uyghur people from China's oppression.  Today, again, we're sending that message, even as we're heartbroken as to what the Chinese people are suffering in terms of COVID-19 and that crisis.  We all are sad about that.

But I thank Chris Smith, again, Mr. Engel, Mr. McCaul, Mr. – Senator Rubio, also, for his leadership on this legislation.  He has been a champion working with us on the China issues.

Beijing's barbarous actions targeting the Uyghur people are an outrage to the collective conscience of the world.  Across the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities face brutal oppression, as Mr. Smith was pointing out: a pervasive state of mass surveillance and predictive policing used to discriminate and violate the human rights of minorities; a mass incarceration of more than one million, and that is a small number – a very conservative, small number – of innocent people with beatings, solitary confinement, deprivation of food and medical treatment — the numbers are probably much larger than that; forced sterilization and other forms of torture; incidents of mass shootings, extrajudicial killings and the intimidation and suppression of journalists courageously exposing the truth.

Today, with this overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation, the United States Congress is taking a firm step to counter Beijing's horrific human rights abuses against the Uyghurs.  In the House, when brought to the Floor in December, this legislation passed on a nearly unanimous basis.  And in the Senate, it passed under unanimous consent with more than 50 cosponsors on both sides of the aisle.

This legislation helps uncover the truth, requiring reports by the Director of the National Intelligence, State Department and FBI about the deaths – depths of the crisis and about China's campaign against journalists exposing the facts.  It creates accountability and ensures transparency of Chinese and foreign countries – companies involved in the camps – American and Chinese and foreign companies involved in these camps.  And it engages the full firepower of American law and leadership, including by urging the application of targeted sanctions against those involved in the oppression of the Uyghur people.

We must continue to raise a drumbeat and shine a light on abuse perpetrated by Beijing against the Uyghurs whenever we can, from this House Floor to the State Department to other multilateral institutions.  

Last Friday, as Speaker, I had the honor of appointing Nury Turkel, a human rights champion, who was born in a camp in Xinjiang, Xinjiang Region, to – I had the privilege of appointing him to the United States Commission on International Freedom — largely focused, with Ambassador Brownback's leadership, on freedom of religion in many countries.  There, I am confident that he will continue to be a powerful voice for the Uyghur people and for the cause of justice around the world.

In just over a week, just think of it, Mr. Smith, in just over a week, the global community will mark the solemn milestone of 31 years since Tiananmen Square massacre: when students, workers and citizens were gunned down as they peacefully defied an oppressive regime to demand their liberties and human rights.  

Sadly, today, Beijing's human rights abuses continue, blatantly continue, targeting so many, from the decades-long abuse faced by the Tibetan people – many of us have visited Tibet and have seen first-hand what is happening there; in Hong Kong’s fight for democracy and the rule of law, which have, once again, been targeted in recent days in a very shameful way; and to the jailing of journalists, human rights lawyers, Christians and democracy advocates on the mainland, throughout the mainland.  

To honor those all who have been persecuted, we must renew our commitment to speaking out against China's human rights.  If we do not speak out, if America does not speak out against human rights in China because of some commercial interest, then we lose all moral authorities to speak out on human rights any place – human rights violations any place in the world.  It's a challenge to our conscience.  

We must do the right thing, and that's what we're doing today.  In honor of the millions fighting for their dignity, safety and the rights in China and around the world, I strongly urge a bipartisan vote for the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act.

I thank those, again, responsible, Mr. McCaul, Mr. Engel, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Smith, members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Suozzi, who has been a champion, as I say, on religious freedom throughout the world.  And I want to further close by commending Mr. McGovern, again, for being relentless and persistent in terms of shining a bright light on human rights violations throughout the world, and especially in China.

With that, Madam Chair, I urge an aye vote and yield back the balance of my time.