UHRP Thanks Senator Rubio and Rep. McGovern for the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act of 2020

For immediate Release
March 11, 2020 5:00 pm
Contacts: Nicole Morgret +1 202-478-1920 (o),Omer Kanat +1 202-790-1795 (m)

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) welcomes the bi-partisan legislation introduced today in the U.S. Congress to end U.S. companies’ complicity in Uyghur forced labor. 

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and in the House by Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), creates a “rebuttable presumption” that goods produced or manufactured in the Uyghur Region are made with forced labor. This makes them automatically subject to the pre-existing U.S. ban on imports of forced-labor goods, unless the there is “clear and convincing evidence” otherwise.

“The Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims is now considered ‘crimes against humanity’ by the Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Museum. For companies to continue business as usual would be a green light for China’s atrocities,” said Omer Kanat, UHRP’s Executive Director.

“UHRP strongly endorses the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and calls on governments around the world to apply joint pressure on the Chinese government to end its human-rights crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” he continued.

Experts speaking before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) this morning asserted that standard “due diligence” methods cannot work in the Uyghur Region. Under current conditions of extreme repression, social-responsibility audits only create “a false appearance” of due diligence, said Scott Nova of the Worker Rights Consortium, adding that the ubiquitous surveillance state makes the term “confidential interview” an oxymoron.

In UHRP testimony before the CECC in October 2019, UHRP Board Chair Nury Turkel described the government’s forced labor schemes as an integral part of a “system of intimidation and terror,” noting further that “due diligence is impossible” in the Uyghur Region, given asphyxiating government control.

The Chinese government has a long history of forcing Uyghurs into involuntary and unpaid labor schemes both inside East Turkistan and throughout the interior of China. As early as 2008, UHRP published a report on government-organized transfers of young Uyghur women to work in factories in eastern China, documenting the widespread deception, pressure, and threats used by government agents.

The exhaustively researched report by Vicky Xu, et al, of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, “Uyghurs for Sale,” shows that the Chinese government has intensified its active programs of organizing forced labor, in contravention of Chinese law and the ILO Convention, as it continues to forcibly transfer Uyghurs outside of their home region. UHRP has urged immediate action in response to the report, calling on Nike and other companies to halt the production and sale of goods made with Uyghur forced labor. 

It is past time to end business as usual with China. The burden of proof is on U.S. and other global companies to ensure that they are not complicit in forced labor in any part of their supply chains. 

In his statement at the CECC event Wednesday morning, Rep. McGovern noted that he and other U.S. elected officials “are serious about moving this” through Congress. UHRP thanks Rep. McGovern for his support and urges swift Congressional action on the bill.  

UHRP also endorses all the recommendations to Congress in the CECC report released today, and especially the need for swift passage of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019.