Uyghurs hail action by U.S. Congress on China’s forced labor, worst since WWII

For immediate release
September 22, 2020 3:22 PM EDT
Uyghur Human Rights Project
Contact: Omer Kanat +1 (202) 790-1795, Peter Irwin +1 (646) 906-7722
 

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) extends its deep gratitude to the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. The bill is the first national legislation anywhere in the world enforcing human-rights standards to end the import of goods made with Uyghur forced labor. 

“Companies are now on notice.” said UHRP Executive Director Omer Kanat. “Americans do not want to be complicit in buying products made by Uyghurs locked in Chinese forced-labor factories. UHRP warmly thanks the House of Representatives for responding with a resounding vote to pass this bill.” 

“Uyghurs around the world take hope from this vote,” Mr. Kanat continued. “The Senate must also act, and all governments must enact measures to counter the Chinese government’s mass atrocities, committed on a scale not seen since World War II.”

The bill requires the Secretary of State to determine if the practice of forced labor or other crimes against Uyghurs and other Muslim Turkic groups constitutes crimes against humanity or genocide as defined in U.S. law. 

UHRP thanks all the Members of Congress who spoke eloquently on the House floor today, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), the bill Sponsor, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), principal Republican cosponsor of the bill, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), Rep. Chris Jacobs (R-NY), Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

Speaker Pelosi denounced the Chinese Communist Party’s systematic targeting of Uyghurs, including the “concentration camps where they are subject to inhumane living conditions, forced cultural brainwashing, rape and torture.” As she noted, “tragically, the products of Uyghur forced labor often end up here in American stores and homes. In fact, roughly one in five cotton garments sold globally contains cotton or yarn from the Uyghur Region.”

Uyghurs will long remember Rep. Jim McGovern’s leadership in the global response to China’s systematic persecution in East Turkistan, and his statement today, “I am proud to stand in solidarity with the Uyghur people.”

“Make no mistake, this is Xi Jinping’s genocide,” said Rep. Chris Smith, a tireless champion of Uyghur human rights. 

The persecution of the Uyghur people is “a threat to freedom everywhere,” said Rep. Chris Jacobs during the floor debate, saying it is “our duty to shine a light upon these atrocities sanction those who condone it, and eradicate such evil.”

In July, UHRP and 280+ organizations called on fashion brands to end complicity and exit the Uyghur Region, forming the Coalition to End Uyghur Forced Labour in China to campaign for an end to forced labor and other atrocity crimes against the Uyghur people.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act makes a finding that ordinary due diligence to ensure clean supply chains is unreliable in the Uyghur Region, due to the extent forced labor has been integrated into the regional economy, the inability of witnesses to speak freely about working conditions given pervasive government surveillance and coercion, and the incentive of government officials to conceal government-sponsored forced labor.

Under the bill, U.S. border authorities must receive “clear and convincing evidence” that goods were not produced with forced labor before allowing them to be imported. It requires the President to sanction individuals who knowingly engage in forced labor or attempt to evade the law. 

The Chinese government demonstrated its growing concern about the international community’s response last week, issuing a White Paper that attempts to whitewash its responsibility for ongoing atrocities in East Turkistan.

Preventing importation of forced labor products is a critical tool for policymakers globally, to counter China’s genocidal repression of the Uyghur people, including extra-legal mass detention, forced political indoctrination, forced factory labor, prevention of births, and the destruction of Uyghur mosques, cemeteries and neighborhoods across East Turkistan.