Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), the lone member of the House of Representatives to vote against condemning concentration camps in China on Tuesday, contended that doing so “meddles in the internal affairs” of China and hurts the United States.
Massie has a firm record of supporting dialogue with adversarial states and opposing sanctions for communist countries that violate their people’s human rights, such as North Korea and China. He has stated that “non-military sanctions have largely proven to be ineffective” in the past.
On Tuesday evening, the House voted to pass the Uighur Intervention and Global Humanitarian Unified Response Act (UIGHUR Act), which would require several government agencies to compile reports on the reality of concentration camps in Xinjiang, western China, home to the majority of the nation’s ethnic Uyghur minority. The act itself notes that Congress has heard significant evidence for the Communist Party imprisoning between 1 million to 2 million ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslim minorities in concentration camps where survivors say they are subjected to murder, rape, torture, organ harvesting, and slavery, among other human rights abuses.
The act also requires the State Department to identify individuals responsible for systematic human rights abuses in Xinjiang to nominate for sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act and would limit the export of “items that provide a critical capability” to China for violating human rights.
The House version will now head back to the Senate, where it was first introduced, so that chamber can accept or modify changes the House made to the original bill.
Massie was the lone “nay” vote against the bill. Another 23 members of Congress did not vote on the bill at all including, notably, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who is running for president largely on a platform of criticizing President Donald Trump’s foreign policy for being too soft on dictatorships.
Massie also voted against the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act – which requires an annual report on human rights in the city and could result in Hong Kong losing its special trade status – that President Trump signed last week. The Hong Kong pro-democracy movement responded by flooding the streets in the thousands, waving American flags, and holding up posters of the president in gratitude. Massie was also the only member of Congress to vote against it.
In a statement on Twitter, Massie explained that he voted against the UIGHUR Act because he opposes “meddling” in foreign affairs. He also justified the vote by implying that those who would criticize the move would also not be willing to stop enriching China through buying products made there – all of which, experts have told Congress, run the risk of being manufactured by slaves.
Reasonable people can come to different conclusions on this vote but,
Before expressing righteous indignation re: my vote against these sanctions, please consider whether you committed enough to the issue that you would personally go a week without buying something made in China
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) December 4, 2019
Massie has previously defied the rest of Congress and voted against legislation to hold communist countries accountable for human rights atrocities. In 2017, Massie voted against a bill that would have sanctioned North Korea further for the death of 22-year-old American Otto Warmbier, arrested for allegedly tampering with a communist propaganda sign in Pyongyang and returned to his parents in a vegetative state, dying shortly after landing in his native Ohio.
“Non-military sanctions have largely proven to be ineffective,” Massie said about his vote at the time. “Worse yet, they create tensions with our natural allies, move us closer to war, impose hardships on American companies doing business abroad, and punish civilians in the targeted country who would otherwise be supportive of the U.S.”
While corporate interests in the United States have openly expressed the possibility of exploiting impoverished North Koreans, there is currently no major American business activity in the country. North Korea legally controls all companies operating in the country, save for Chinese corporations found violating United Nations sanctions to offer the fellow communist regime an economic lifeline.
Massie has also supported efforts to enrich communist Cuba through allowing American businesses to work with the island, and defended President Barack Obama’s visit to Havana in 2016. That visit resulted in hundreds of arrests of peaceful dissidents during his stay and, ultimately, over 10,000 politically motivated arrests in Cuba that year. Massie reiterated his support for President Obama’s trip to Cuba – which included a much-maligned baseball game alongside dictator Raúl Castro – in 2018, in defense of President Donald Trump meeting Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Dialogue with other countries is important. President Trump was right to meet with Russia to promote peace and commerce, just like President Obama was right to meet with Cuba.#transpartisan
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) July 17, 2018
Massie has also received praise from pro-regime lobbying groups such as Engage Cuba for promoting legislation that would allow tourism to the island. As a communist country, Cuba does not legally allow citizens to own private property or businesses – those who claim to be “independent” businesses are run by trusted Party members – and the Cuban military owns all major tourism and hospitality facilities.
Kentucky is home to one of the fastest-growing Cuban exile communities in the country, centered in Louisville, and as of 2016 Cubans were the fastest-growing migrant population in the state. Cubans flee to America, rarely with the permission of their regime, seeking the opportunity to escape severe restrictions on speech, religion, and the freedom to work and develop businesses.
The UIGHUR Act, as it passed the House on Tuesday, notes that at least 800,000 people have passed through China’s concentration camps, facing “forced political indoctrination, torture, beatings, and food deprivation, as well as denial of religious, cultural, and linguistic freedoms.”
The act would specifically require President Trump to publicly condemn “abuses against Turkic Muslims by Chinese authorities” and call for an end to human rights atrocities there. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would also be required to submit a report on Chinese regime officials in Xinjiang who, through their human rights violations, would qualify for sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which allows sanctions on individuals for human rights abuses.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying issued a livid statement against the act on Wednesday.
“This bill deliberately smears the human rights condition in Xinjiang, slanders China’s efforts in de-radicalization and counter-terrorism and viciously attacks the Chinese government’s Xinjiang policy,” Hua said. “It seriously violates international law and basic norms governing international relations, and grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs. China is strongly indignant at and firmly opposed to it.”