The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that aims to penalize the Chinese government over its alleged oppression of the Uyghur people.
Unanimous support: Having recently received an overwhelmingly bipartisan 428-1 vote in Congress, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is the latest step the U.S. has taken against China following the White House’s recently announced boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
- A similar version of the bill, S.65, was passed by the Senate in July and seeks to expand “existing asset and visa-blocking sanctions related to Xinjiang to cover foreign individuals and entities responsible for serious human rights abuses in connection with forced labor.”
- “The People’s Republic of China is waging a brutal campaign of repression against the Uyghur people and other minorities with mass incarceration, torture and forced labor,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during a Dec. 9 debate on the House floor leading up to the vote. “This legislation, which we will pass today, makes it unequivocally clear the House’s firm commitment to human rights in China and does so in a bipartisan way.”
- Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who sponsored the House’s version of the bill, also spoke, saying: “This is not a partisan issue. It is a human rights issue. It is a moral issue.”
- The effort has received bipartisan support, including from Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio who NPR quoted as saying, “I guarantee, as I speak to you now, everyone in this building owns something that was made by a slave in Xinjiang and most people don’t know that.”
- Under the legislation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would be tasked with listing entities involved in the reportedly forced labor of Uyghurs in Xinjiang and prevent the goods they produce or import from entering the U.S.
- A “rebuttable presumption” clause in the bill also “assumes all goods from Xinjiang are made with forced labor.” The commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection can determine whether certain goods are an exception.
- “Many products used every day by people all over our country, including clothing, food and shoes, are made using forced labor,” McGovern said. “The imperative to act is clear.”