UHRP Joins Camp Survivors to Give Testimony on Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Enforcement Strategy
April 11, 2022 | 2:00 p.m. EDT
For Immediate Release
Contact: Omer Kanat +1 (202) 790-1795, Peter Irwin +1 (646) 906-7722
The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), along with camp survivors, experts, and civil society representatives, provided testimony at a public hearing to strengthen enforcement of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA).
“I urge CBP to enforce the law vigorously, in line with Congressional intent in passing the law in a near-unanimous vote,” said UHRP Executive Director, Omer Kanat, in a statement. “The industry associations’ comments mostly amounted to lip service, regarding their responsibility to stop forced labor imports, and would only water down enforcement.”
“We are dismayed by various ‘de minimis’ exceptions proposed by some business representatives during the public comment period in March,” said UHRP Director of Global Advocacy, Louisa Greve, in her testimony. “Exempting any goods whose origins are unknown defeats the very purpose of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. This law explicitly puts the burden of proof on the importers to know their entire supply chain. If importers cannot show that all the inputs for their goods are free of forced labor, they are inadmissible to the U.S.”
UHRP also supported the participation of two survivors who provided testimony, Gulzira Auelkhan and Sayragul Sauytbay, who both experienced forced labor while in China.
Sayragul Sauytbay provided eyewitness testimony of mental and physical torture, sterilization, and sexual abuse targeting Uyghurs and Kazakhs. Gulzira Auelkhan testified about being forced to work in a factory for two and a half months, where she made gloves, school uniforms, and other textiles.
Additional testimony was delivered by Kazakh forced-labor survivors, relatives of Uyghur victims, and NGOs including Uyghur Human Rights Project, World Uyghur Congress, Campaign for Uyghurs, and other leading members of the Coalition to End Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region.
As required by the UFLPA, on April 8 the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force (FLETF) held a hearing on the use of forced labor in the Uyghur region to gather public input on measures to prevent the importation of forced labor goods to the United States.
The FLETF is an interagency task force that includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and its parent body, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Departments of Labor, State, Treasury, Justice and Commerce.
Ahead of the hearing, UHRP also submitted recommendations to the State Department under Section 4 of the UFLPA as part of the Diplomatic Strategy, including:
- Following up on G7 forced labor commitments at Carbis Bay and October 21 trade ministers’ meeting;
- Urging the G20 to Enact Import Bans on products tainted with Uyghur forced labor, including cotton and yarn, polysilicon, and electronics;
- Urging European Commissioners involved in the EU’s Sustainable Corporate Governance Initiative to make sure the upcoming proposal contains robust and comprehensive provisions, an import control mechanism on forced labour goods, and the use of sanctions regimes;
- Engagement with the ILO, like-minded governments, trade union federations, and civil society, to follow up to the ILO Committee of Experts report including forced labor in China;
- Leading an update that addresses state-sponsored forced labor in the joint principles statement by the governments of the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom; and
- Providing updates on information-sharing mechanisms with diplomatic counterparts.