Bipartisan Senate Coalition Calls for Banning Imports Made With Uyghur Slave Labor

January 28, 2021 Updated: January 28, 2021

A proposal with bipartisan backing is before the U.S. Senate to make it illegal to import into the U.S. products made in China using the slave labor of members of the Uyghur Muslim minority in that country.

The proposal—known as the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act—is co-sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), along with 27 other senators, including 15 Republicans and 12 Democrats.

“As the Chinese Communist Party is committing egregious human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, including genocide and crimes against humanity, there is no excuse to turn a blind eye,” Rubio said in a Jan. 27 statement.

“We must instead do everything in our power to stop them. This bill is an important step in that direction. My bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would ensure that the CCP is not profiting from its abuses by stopping products made with Uyghur forced labor from entering our supply chains.”

Rubio is vice-chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the second-ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is also co-chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC).

Merkley, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and serves with Rubio on the CECC, said in the same statement: “For years, the Chinese government has been committing genocide in Xinjiang, subjecting Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities to torture, imprisonment, forced labor, and pressure to abandon their religious and cultural practices.

“The fact that some of the products they’ve been forced to produce are ending up on American shelves is disturbing and unacceptable. We must ban the importation of these goods to ensure that we are not complicit in the genocide, and fully commit ourselves to holding the perpetrators accountable for these atrocities.”

The Rubio–Merkley measure goes beyond an executive order issued in September 2020 by then-President Donald Trump that banned the importation of specified goods, including toys, hair products, clothing, computer parts, and electronics.

The proposal now before the Senate provides a blanket ban on the importation of all Chinese goods produced in any way using slave labor of the Muslim minority that lives primarily in the Xinjiang Region of western China.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s last official act before the end of his tenure was a Jan. 19 U.S. determination of atrocities committed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the region.

“For the past four years, this Administration has exposed the nature of the Chinese Communist Party and called it what it is: a Marxist-Leninist regime that exerts power over the long-suffering Chinese people through brainwashing and brute force,” Pompeo said in the determination.

“We have paid particular attention to the CCP’s treatment of the Uyghur people, a Muslim minority group that resides largely in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Western China. While the CCP has always exhibited a profound hostility to all people of faith, we have watched with growing alarm the Party’s increasingly repressive treatment of the Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups.

“Our exhaustive documentation of the PRC’s actions in Xinjiang confirms that since at least March 2017, local authorities dramatically escalated their decades-long campaign of repression against Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups, including ethnic Kazakhs and ethnic Kyrgyz.

“Their morally repugnant, wholesale policies, practices, and abuses are designed systematically to discriminate against and surveil ethnic Uyghurs as a unique demographic and ethnic group, restrict their freedom to travel, emigrate, and attend schools, and deny other basic human rights of assembly, speech, and worship.

“PRC authorities have conducted forced sterilizations and abortions on Uyghur women, coerced them to marry non-Uyghurs, and separated Uyghur children from their families.”

Pompeo ended the determination by stating that “the United States has worked exhaustively to pull into the light what the Communist Party and General Secretary Xi Jinping wish to keep hidden through obfuscation, propaganda, and coercion.”

“Beijing’s atrocities in Xinjiang represent an extreme affront to the Uyghurs, the people of China, and civilized people everywhere. We will not remain silent,” he said. “If the Chinese Communist Party is allowed to commit genocide and crimes against humanity against its own people, imagine what it will be emboldened to do to the free world, in the not-so-distant future.”

President Joe Biden and newly confirmed Secretary of State Anthony Blinken are now conducting a systematic review of what they described as Trump’s “aggressive” foreign policy, including the former chief executive’s approach to China.

Blinken also told the Senate foreign relations panel during his confirmation hearing that he believed Trump was right to take a tough approach toward China, but he had reservations about how it was done.

“Let me just say that I also believe that President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China,” Blinken told the committee. “I disagree very much with the way that he went about it in a number of areas, but the basic principle was the right one, and I think that’s actually helpful to our foreign policy.”

Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc