US House votes to ban Xinjiang imports over forced labor

The US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to ban imports from China’s Xinjiang region, vowing to stop what lawmakers say is systematic forced labor by the Uighur community.

Despite opposition by US businesses, the act passed 406-3 in a sign of growing outrage over Xinjiang, where activists say more than one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking people have been incarcerated in camps.

“Tragically, the products of the forced labor often end up here in American stores and homes,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said before the vote.

“We must send a clear message to Beijing: These abuses must end now.”

The Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act still needs to be passed by the Senate, which may have limited time before November 3 elections.

The United States already bans products made through slavery but the act would put a blanket ban on products from Xinjiang, saying that forced labor is inextricably linked to the region’s economy.

“We know forced labor is widespread and systematic and exists both within and outside the mass internment camps,” said Representative Jim McGovern, a Democrat who helped lead the bipartisan act.

“These facts are confirmed by the testimony of former camp detainees, satellite imagery and official leaked documents from the Chinese government,” he said on the House floor.

Republican Representative Chris Smith said: “We cannot be silent. We must demand an end to these barbaric practices and accountability from the Chinese government.”

Xinjiang is a global hub for cotton with one study by a labor group estimating that 20 percent of the garments imported into the United States contain at least some yarn from the region.

The act passed despite criticism from the US Chamber of Commerce, the premier business lobby, which argued that the law would prohibit legitimate commerce rather than find ways to root out products from forced labor.

After the act was introduced, the State Department issued an advisory that it said would educate US companies in Xinjiang and the Customs and Border Protection Agency said it was banning specific products traced to forced labor in the region.

McGovern criticized the efforts by President Donald Trump’s administration, saying: “These piecemeal actions fall far short of addressing a regional economic system that is built upon a foundation of forced labor and repression.”

Activists and witnesses say that China is seeking to forcibly homogenize the Uighur population in re-education camps including by restricting the practice of Islam.

China argues that it is providing vocational training to reduce the allure of extremism.

Former national security advisor John Bolton wrote in a recent book that Trump voiced support for the camps when his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping explained them to him.

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House passes bill aimed at imports tied to Uyghur forced labor

A bill aimed at shining a light on corporations benefiting from the use of China’s forced labor camps, which have targeted Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region, passed the House in a 229-187 vote on Wednesday.



a group of people looking at a laptop: House passes bill aimed at imports tied to Uyghur forced labor


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House passes bill aimed at imports tied to Uyghur forced labor

The Uyghur Forced Labor Disclosure Act of 2020 – spearheaded by Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) – would require companies that are publicly traded in the United States and do business within the region to disclose information on their supply chains, including whether their products could be made by forced labor.

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Proponents of the legislation argue it is a step in the right direction in taking a stand against human rights abuses in the region.

“This legislation is essential to protect American investors and consumers through stronger disclosure requirements alerting them to Chinese and international companies whose operations enable the mass internment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said during debate.

“It represents a clear and material risk to shared values and the corporate reputations of these companies and US investors and consumers,” McGovern added.

Critics argued that while they agree the United States needs to take action to crackdown on human rights violations, certain provisions in the bill that could place unnecessary regulatory burdens on companies. Republicans also took aim at Democrats for not having the bill go through the committee process.

“While the bill takes strong action to ensure American businesses are not complicit in China’s forced labor programs, there are outstanding concerns in the bill that may harm U.S. businesses. For instance, the bill requires public companies to file disclosures with the SEC if they imported manufactured goods or other materials that originated in or are sourced in the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region and disclose whether those goods originated in forced labor camps,” Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) said on the floor ahead of the vote.

“These entities would also have to disclose the nature and extent of the commercial activity related to each good or material, the gross revenue, and net profits attributable, and whether they intend to continue importing the goods. China’s atrocities against Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups must come to an end and we voted on that bill yesterday in a bipartisan fashion.”

The bill was brought to the floor as Republicans have repeatedly slammed Democrats over not being hard enough on China, making it a key component of their campaign strategy.

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