House Passes Bill to Crack Down on Imports from China’s Forced Labor Camps

September 23, 2020 Updated: September 23, 2020

The House on Tuesday passed legislation aimed at cracking down on the exchange of goods made in forced labor camps by Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), passed in a 406-3 vote. The bill imposes a number of restrictions related to the region, including prohibiting certain imports from there and imposing sanctions on those responsible for human rights violations. In particular, goods made in Xinjiang will not be allowed entry into the United States unless U.S. customs officials can determine that the goods were not made under forced labor conditions. The bill also calls on the president to impose sanctions in the form of visa and property blocks on foreign entities or individuals who knowingly facilitated the forced labor manufacture of goods in Xinjiang or who tried to contravene U.S. laws that prohibit the import of items made under such conditions.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for action to fight human rights abuses in China.

“There is strong, diverse, bipartisan, and bicameral support for this legislation,” McGovern said on the floor ahead of the vote, adding, “it is time for Congress to act.”

He spoke of lawmakers watching “in horror” as the Chinese regime, in recent years, established and then expanded a system of mass incarceration camps, in which a series of grave abuses have taken place.

“As many as 1.8 million Uighurs and members of other predominantly Muslim ethnic minority groups have been arbitrarily detained in the camps and subjected to forced labor, torture, political intimidation, and other severe human rights abuses,” he said, adding that some of the practices the Chinese regime is allegedly engaged in, liked forced sterilization, may violate the UN Convention on Genocide.

In an interview in late August on The Epoch Times’ American Thought Leaders, Sam Brownback, the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, spoke of mounting evidence of the Chinese regime’s human rights abuses.

“You can look at what China did to the Tibetan Buddhists and still [does]: the persecution, keeping the Dalai Lama out of the country,” he said. “You can look at Xinjiang which is probably the most egregious religious persecution taking place in the world today. A million Muslim Uyghurs in concentration camps,” he said, adding that outside China’s harsh penal facilities, the communist regime continues its repressive tactics via an elaborate system of social control.

“And then if you get out of those, you’re in this police state of a virtual prison by all the cameras, the facial recognition systems, and the limitations on you, the destruction of the house church, the desire to control the Catholic Church, the persecution of Falun Gong, the credible reporting now of taking place of organ harvesting,”  he explained.

Practitioners of Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline, have been subjected to a relentless persecution that began in 1999, which some scholars have described as the playbook for the current repression of ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.

falun gong practitioner vigil dc
Falun Gong practitioners take part in a candlelight vigil commemorating the 20th anniversary of the persecution of Falun Gong in China, on the West Lawn of Capitol Hill on July 18, 2019. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Brownback added that the Trump administration has gotten tough on China’s communist abusers.

“You’re seeing the Trump administration go hammer and tongs at these human rights abuses and particularly religious freedom abuses that are taking place in western China. We are going at the companies that are then used in the forced labor, that is being forced by the Chinese Communist Party. We are going at the entities that their technology is being used to observe and to oppress people,” he explained.

On the floor of the House on Wednesday, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), who co-sponsored the bill, compared the abuses perpetrated by China’s communist regime in Xinjiang to concentration camps in Nazi Germany.

“As members of Congress, we have a moral obligation to ensure that the state-sponsored campaign of ethnic cleansing and forced labor reminiscent of the concentration camps of the Nazi regime—when we swore as a world community, ‘Never again!’—be shut down and punished to the fullest extent of U.S. and international law,” he said.

Yoho added that America’s business community also has a moral obligation “to not appease China in the name of profits.”

The House is also expected to pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Disclosure Act (pdf), which would require publicly traded companies in the United States that do business in Xinjiang to disclose supply chain information, including whether the goods or materials used to make finished products involved the exploitation of forced labor.

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