News Articles

Senate approves ban on visas for officials involved in persecution, forced

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Senate adopted legislation denying entry into this county to foreign government officials who have been involved in either forced abortion, coercive sterilization, female genital mutilation or religious persecution.
Senators approved the proposal, which was sponsored by Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R.-Ark., as an amendment to the Defense Department appropriations bill. It passed by voice vote without opposition.
The measure, which is a combination of two bills passed in November by the House of Representatives, originally targeted China. Though the Senate version would especially affect Chinese officials, it, unlike the House bill, also would cover other countries’ officials guilty of such practices.
“By voting to deny visas to foreign officials involved in forced abortion or religious persecution, the United States Senate has courageously taken a stand for the noble cause of human rights,” Hutchinson said in a written statement. “The bottom line is that the practices of forced abortion, sterilization and mutilation are inhumane, repugnant and morally reprehensible.”
The amendment, adopted July 30, also would require the State Department to provide foreign governments with the names of people it believes have been charged with crimes based on their religious practices. The State Department would have to seek from the government each person’s location and condition, as well as the charges and sentence imposed on him.
The legislation enables the president to waive the visa restriction if he determines it to be in the United States’ interest.
The House passed a package of nine bills related to China in November. It approved in a 415-1 vote a measure banning Chinese officials involved in coercive abortion or sterilization from entering the United States. By a 366-54 margin, it passed a proposal denying visas for Chinese officials engaged in religious persecution.
The Senate previously adopted four other portions of the package as amendments to the Defense authorization bill. The measures call for:
— increased funding to enforce the ban on the importation of slave-labor products from China;
— more funds for Radio Free Asia, which broadcasts to China;
— blocking companies owned by the Chinese military from operating in the United States;
— helping Taiwan develop and implement a missile defense system.