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US house votes to punish China over Uyghur treatment

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The US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation restricting imports from China’s Xinjiang region over its treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority, as tensions continue to escalate between Washington and Beijing.

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Members of the House voted 428-1 to pass the “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act,” which requires corporations to prove “with clear and convincing evidence” that any goods imported from the region were not made using forced labor.

“Right now, Beijing is orchestrating a brutal and accelerating campaign of repression against the Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told lawmakers ahead of the vote.

“In Xinjiang, across China, millions are enduring outrageous human rights abuses: from mass surveillance and disciplinary policing; to mass torture including solitary confinement and forced sterilizations; intimidation of journalists and activists who is have dared to expose the truth.”

She added: “And, the government of China’s exploitation of forced labor reaches across the oceans to our shores and across the world.”

The US Senate has previously approved a similar measure and the two will now need reconciling.

The bill will then need to be signed into law by President Joe Biden and it was unclear whether it had White House support.

The vote comes shortly after the White House announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics over what it termed China's "genocide" of the Uyghur minority and other human rights abuses, a move that drew a harsh rebuke from Beijing.

Earlier this summer, the US government imposed similar restrictions on some Chinese imports, including solar panel materials, over Beijing's treatment of Uyghurs.

China called those restrictions "bandit-like."

In a separate 428-0 vote, the House also passed a resolution stating that the International Olympic Committee "failed to adhere to its own human rights commitments" amid doubts about the safety of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who has accused a top Communist Party leader of sexual assault.

Campaigners say that at least one million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Human rights groups and foreign governments have found evidence of what they say is mass detentions, forced labor, political indoctrination, torture and forced sterilization. Washington has described it as genocide.

After initially denying the existence of the Xinjiang camps, China later defended them as vocational training centers aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.

In a new report published Wednesday, the Uyghur Human Rights Project — a US-based advocacy group — said it had identified more than 300 Uyghur and other Muslim intellectuals believed to be detained in Xinjiang since 2017.

China has denied the accusations concerning its treatment of the Uyghurs and there was no immediate comment on the House vote from Beijing.

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Stampede at Liberian church gathering kills 29

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A stampede has killed at least 29 people at a religious event in the suburbs of the Liberian capital Monrovia, police said on Thursday.

Those who died from the incident include 11 children and a pregnant woman.

The bodies have been taken to the morgue of Redemption Hospital, close to where the incident occurred in a beach area called New Kru Town.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The stampede erupted when a gang of thugs armed with knives attacked some of the hundreds attending the ceremony at about 9 p.m. on Wednesday night, police spokesman Moses Carter told The Associated Press.

One person has been arrested, he said.

Local media said it was a Christian prayer gathering, known in Liberia as a “crusade,” held in a football field.

Witness Emmanuel Gray, 26, told AFP he heard “heavy noise” towards the end and saw several dead bodies.

Street gangs have become an increasing problem in Monrovia and other Liberian cities in recent years, according to residents.

President George Weah was expected to visit the scene Thursday, according to Liberian media reports.

Liberia, Africa’s oldest republic, is an impoverished country that is still recovering after back-to-back civil wars between 1989-2003, as well as the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola epidemic.

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US approves ballistic requests to ship US weapons to Ukraine

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The US has approved requests by Baltic nations to ship US-made weapons to Ukraine amid fears of a Russian invasion, officials said Thursday.

A State Department official in Berlin, where Secretary of State Antony Blinken was holding talks on Ukraine, said the US was “expediting authorized transfers of US-origin equipment from other allies.”

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“European allies have what they need to move forward on additional security assistance (to) Ukraine in the coming days and weeks,” the official said.

A source familiar with the authorisations said the approval was for urgent requests by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to assist Ukraine, a fellow former Soviet republic.

The exact amounts and types of weapons were not specified, but the Baltic nations’ arsenals include Javelins, portable missiles capable of destroying tanks.

Tens of thousands of Russian troops, along with tanks and artillery, have been deployed near the Ukrainian border since late last year, rattling the three Baltic nations, which are members of NATO.

President Joe Biden’s administration since last year has approved $650 million in weapons to Ukraine, $200 million of it last month amid fears of war.

While the Biden administration boasts that the shipments are the most ever by the US, Ukraine has voiced hope for military supplies as quickly as possible, with shipments from nearby countries especially valuable.

Britain has also rushed to support Ukraine, announcing on Monday that it was sending anti-tank weapons.

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Bomb blast in Pakistan’s Lahore kills two, injures 16

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At least two people were killed and 16 injured Thursday by a bomb blast in a busy shopping district of the Pakistani city of Lahore, police said.

“Initial investigations show that it was a time-controlled device on a motorbike which was the cause of the blast,” Rana Arif, spokesman for Lahore police, told AFP.

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