US likely to hit China over human rights despite trade talks

FILE - In this Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, file photo, a guard tower and barbed wire fences are seen around a facility in the Kunshan Industrial Park in Artux in western China's Xinjiang region. Congress is poised to hand President Donald Trump a chance to infuriate the Chinese government and attack its record on human rights as he is trying to deliver his long-sought trade deal (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON, DC – Congress is poised to hand President Donald Trump a second chance in less than a month to anger the Chinese government and attack its record on human rights as he tries to deliver a long-sought trade deal with Beijing.

Members of the Senate said Thursday that they expect to quickly and easily pass legislation calling for sanctions on Chinese officials and other measures to address the brutal crackdown on the ethnic Uighur minority in China's northwest. The House passed its version in a 407-1 vote Tuesday.

Senate approval is expected within the next two weeks and could be unanimous. The White House has not commented on the legislation, but Trump may have no choice but to sign it as he did the recent bill supporting human rights in Hong Kong.

“My sense is that if it passes by an overwhelming margin as it did in the House ... it's difficult not to sign it or allow it to become law," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said.

It places Trump in an awkward position since he has made challenging China on trade, not human rights, a signature issue of his administration. He has repeatedly called Chinese President Xi Jinping a friend and has lamented the money and effort the U.S. has spent “policing the world.”

The legislation nearing approval in the Senate would direct the administration to come up with a list of Chinese officials who could face sanctions for their role in the repression of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang Province.

China has detained at least 800,000 Uighurs, ethnic Kazahks and other ethnic minorities in internment camps. People have reported being subjected to forced political indoctrination, torture, beatings and food deprivation as well as being denied the freedom to practice their religion or speak their native languages.

Rubio told The Associated Press that the U.S. has a duty to call attention to the repression regardless of the trade war that threatens global economic growth.