House passes bill banning imports of goods produced by forced labour of Uyghurs in China

It remains to be seen if and when Biden will sign the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law.

Uyghur anti-slavery legislation passes the House
AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali
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The House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which effectively bans Americans from importing any goods produced in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China, where over two million members of the Uyghur ethnic minority are being detained across concentration camps.

The bill, which has bipartisan support, was sponsored by Democrat Rep. Jim McGovern, and passed 428 to 1, with only Republican Rep. Thomas Massie voting in opposition, on ideological grounds. The legislation was co-sponsored by 111 members of both Republican and Democrat parties.

A companion bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio passed the Senate in July, Rebel News reported.

“The message to Beijing and any international company that profits from forced labor in Xinjiang is clear: no more,” said Rubio in a July press release. “We will not turn a blind eye to the CCP’s ongoing crimes against humanity, and we will not allow corporations a free pass to profit from those horrific abuses.”

According to the Daily Caller, the House passed a similar bill in September 2020, but the  Senate was unable to take up the bill before the end of the previous congressional session.

“This is a strong, bipartisan bill with a simple purpose: to stop the government of China from exploiting the Uyghur people,” Rep. McGovern stated. “In two months, the Chinese government will host the Winter Olympics in the middle of a genocide. We must take a clear moral position to stand with those who are suffering because of forced labor. No more business as usual. I am especially grateful to Speaker Pelosi for her longstanding and principled leadership on this issue and for getting it to the floor for a vote, and I urge the United States Senate to quickly pass this bill and get it to President Biden’s desk for his signature.”

Under U.S. federal law, American companies are prohibited from importing products made with forced labor, and the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is designed to serve as an umbrella prohibiting all products made in the Xinjiang province of China. If a company remains insistent on importing products from the region, it must be required to provide “clear and convincing evidence” that the products were not manufactured with slave labor of any sort.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a number of high-profile corporations including Coca-Cola and Apple, and a variety of trade groups joined forces to oppose the anti-slavery bill due to their sourcing of materials and labor from Xinjiang.

It remains to be seen if and when Biden will sign the legislation into law.

According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Uyghurs are “working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 82 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors.”

In response to the passage of the legislation as well as U.S.-led corporate boycotts, China has threatened retaliation, and China’s own brands have been bragging about their use of Xinjiang cotton, Rebel News reported.

China is retaliating against Western sanctions for its human rights abuses in Xinjiang by targeting an industry reliant on its supply chains in China: clothing. On the chopping block is H&M, which has come under Chinese scrutiny for remarks the company made over half a year ago, when it distanced itself from China’s use of forced labour in Xinjiang. 

Dozens of other brands are also facing China’s wrath for their refusal to use products and resources from the troubled region, where upwards of two million members of the Uyghur ethnic minority and other groups have been interned in what Western leaders have deemed a genocide. 

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