The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which passed the Democrat-led chamber by an overwhelming vote of 428–1, now heads to the Senate. It needs to pass the Senate and be signed by President Joe Biden to become law.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) was the only lawmaker who voted against the measure.
The measure, which was previously passed by the House in 2020, would create a “rebuttable presumption” that all goods from Xinjiang, where the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has set up a vast network of detention and reeducation camps for Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, are made with forced labor.
To bypass the import ban, entities would be required to prove, with “clear and convincing evidence,” that their goods from the Xinjiang region aren’t made with forced labor.
The bill also requires the president to impose sanctions on foreign officials that he determines have “knowingly” engaged in or facilitated forced labor of victims in Xinjiang.
It also requires the secretary of state, within 90 days of the legislation’s enactment, to determine whether forced labor and other human rights abuses against Uyghurs and minorities in Xinjiang “can be considered systematic and widespread, and therefore constitutes crimes against humanity or constitutes genocide.”
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the bill’s sponsor, said on the House floor: “This is not a partisan issue. It is a human rights issue. It is a moral issue.”
A similar version of the bill previously passed the Senate in a unanimous vote in July. Lawmakers would need to go to conference to reconcile a number of differences between the House- and Senate-passed measures.
The Uyghur Human Rights Project, a human rights advocacy group, urged the House and Senate to “quickly reconcile the two bills and send the legislation to President Biden’s desk by the end of 2021.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) who previously introduced the Senate bill alongside Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), said jurisdictional issues could slow down the House-passed bill’s progress in the Senate.
“They’re passing a bill that they know has had, in the past, jurisdictional problems in the Senate,” Rubio said on Dec. 8 at an American Compass event at Hillsdale College, according to Bloomberg. “My sense is, even as they pass that today and I’m glad they’re taking action, they’re doing it in a way that helps those who are trying to keep this from becoming law.”
Prior to the House bill’s passage, Rubio in a statement on Dec. 8 accused the Biden administration and big corporations of “still working to make sure this bill never becomes law.”
“And they are already working to complicate things here in the Senate. Anyone who helps them stop our efforts while hiding behind procedures and technicalities should be called out for that.”
Before the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters at a news conference, “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.”
“Today, Congress sends a clear message: the Chinese government’s genocide of the Uyghur people must end now. If the U.S. does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights any place in the world,” she said in a separate statement.
Republicans have accused the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress of slow-walking the legislation because it would complicate the president’s renewable energy agenda. Xinjiang supplies much of the world’s material for solar panels. The White House and congressional Democrats deny delaying the bills.
The House on Dec. 8 also passed two other measures related to CCP-ruled China.
It passed a resolution to condemn the “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity” against Uyghurs and other minorities in China, and ask for a United Nations investigation into the matter. The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and passed with a vote of 427–1.
The House also voted 428–0 for a resolution saying that the International Olympic Committee “failed to adhere to its own human rights commitments” in handling tennis player Peng Shuai’s sexual assault allegations against a former Chinese official, by cooperating with the Chinese regime.
The moves come after the Biden administration announced a U.S. diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, citing the Chinese regime’s ongoing human rights crisis in Xinjiang. The United States will not send an official delegation to the event, although U.S. athletes will still be allowed to compete.
The Chinese regime has been accused of committing genocide and human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region. It has denied such accusations, including accusations of forced labor in the region.
Former Uyghur detainees previously told The Epoch Times they were subject to torture, forced to denounce their faith, and forced to pledge loyalty to the CCP while being held for unknown reasons in often overcrowded facilities.
Uyghurs—the majority of whom are Sunni Muslim—alongside other ethnic minorities such as Tibetans—the majority of whom are Buddhist—as well as believers of other faiths, such as house Christians and Falun Gong adherents, have long been targeted by the CCP and its atheistic social policies for transformation through “thought reeducation,” also known as brainwashing.
Isabel van Brugen and Reuters contributed to this report.