The sponsor of US legislation backing democracy in Hong Kong has urged Congress to pass a bill to counter China’s crackdown on Muslims in Xinjiang , as Washington and Beijing prepare to sign a deal to defuse trade tensions. Speaking to CBS on Sunday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio – who last year introduced the bill that paves the way for sanctions against Chinese officials over human rights abuses in Xinjiang – also said human rights issues should not be overlooked for the trade deal or be “intermingled” with geopolitical issues between the world’s two largest economies. “I will never accept the notion that somehow, in order to be able to sell them more things, we have to look the other way on some of the grotesque human rights violations that we’re seeing systemised on their part,” the Republican senator said. The remarks by Rubio, a vocal critic of China’s human rights record, come as trade officials from the two sides prepare to sign a partial deal in Washington next week for a truce in their costly trade war . With the US Congress reconvening on Monday, Rubio said he hoped lawmakers could resolve the differences between the House of Representatives and Senate bills to agree on a version soon that could be passed through Congress. Supported by a vote of 407 to 1 in the House of Representatives in December , the Uygur Intervention and Global Humanitarian Unified Response Act (UIGHUR Act) of 2019 amends a Senate bill passed without objection in September. It commands the US administration to identify and sanction officials deemed responsible for their involvement in the mass internment of members of ethnic minority groups in China’s far western Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Once passed by Congress, the legislation would go to President Donald Trump to sign into law. “I hope we can get a deal done with the House,” Rubio told CBS. “They passed a version of a Uygur human rights bill. We have our version. They’re pretty close, so we can get something done and signed.” Since early 2017, the Chinese government has reportedly detained some 1 million Uygurs and other largely Muslim ethnic minorities in mass internment camps in Xinjiang, where inmates are subjected to political indoctrination. Beijing claims the facilities are “vocational training centres” and says they are a legitimate response to the threat of religious extremism. China was furious when the House of Representatives passed the strongly worded Uygur bill in December and has threatened to retaliate. Chinese state media suggested at the time that Beijing may consider restricting US officials and lawmakers from visiting Xinjiang, and releasing an “unreliable entity list” that would include “relevant US entities”. Lu Xiang, a specialist on US affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Xinjiang bill was mostly symbolic and he doubted it would be an effective card for Trump to play against Beijing. He said that was especially the case as tensions dramatically escalated with Iran following a US air strike on Friday that killed the country’s top military leader. “Like the Hong Kong bill, [the Xinjiang issue] is separate to the trade talks, even though the Xinjiang bill is likely to have a negative effect on overall relations between China and the US,” Lu said. The rare bipartisan support for the Xinjiang bill followed legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters that was signed into law by Trump in November, under which the US government is required to impose sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for human rights abuses in Hong Kong. The US Department of State and other government agencies are also required to conduct an annual review to determine whether to change its favourable trade relations with Hong Kong. Beijing hit back at Washington over the Hong Kong legislation by suspending visits of US military vessels and aircraft to the city and sanctioning US-based non-government organisations. “But so far, little has been done [by the US] after the Hong Kong bill was passed because the legislation, if implemented, could hurt the interests of the United States and US companies, many of which invest in mainland China and Southeast Asia through Hong Kong,” Lu said. In a move that apparently caught Beijing off guard, Trump announced on Twitter on December 31 that he would sign the phase one trade deal with China on January 15. The Post has reported that Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He is expected to lead a delegation to Washington next Monday. Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.