US senators sought Tuesday to declare that China is committing genocide against Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims, a step that could ramp up pressure on behalf of the estimated one million-plus people in camps.
The resolution was introduced by senators across the political spectrum, although it is unlikely to move immediately as the Senate is out of session until after next week's election, AFP reported.
The text states that China's campaign "against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and members of other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region constitutes genocide."
"This resolution recognizes these crimes for what they are and is the first step toward holding China accountable for their monstrous actions," said Senator John Cornyn, a Republican who sponsored it.
Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, said the resolution would show that the United States "can't stay silent."
"China's assault on Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups -- escalating surveillance, imprisonment, torture and forced 're-education camps' -- is genocide, pure and simple," Merkley said.
Other co-sponsors include Marco Rubio, a close ally of President Donald Trump on foreign policy, and Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Rights groups say that more than one million Uighurs languish in camps in the Xinjiang region as Beijing attempts to forcibly integrate the community and root out its Islamic heritage.
China has denied the numbers and describes the camps as vocational centers.
Trump's administration has decried the situation in Xinjiang and slapped sanctions on the Communist Party's top official there, Chen Quanguo, but stopped just short of declaring genocide.
Robert O'Brien, Trump's national security advisor, said earlier this month that "if not genocide, something close" to it is taking place in Xinjiang.