The House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress approved on Wednesday, Dec. 8, a new bill that will force companies importing their products from the Chinese province of Xinjiang, to prove that they did not use slave labor in the framework of the genocide against the Uighurs.
Amid tension between the United States and the Chinese Communist regime over the recent diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games, House representatives on Wednesday passed the ‘Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act’ with a near-unanimous vote of 428 in favor to 1 against.
Since the Senate passed a similar bill and only reconciliation between the two remains to be done, for the bill to go into effect it needs the signature of President Biden, which as it was sponsored by the Democrats and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has come out in favor, it is very likely to have the support of the White House.
The measure is not ‘new’ as Republicans in the Trump era also passed a similar law in 2020 and as a result, authorities seized several shipments of clothing and other goods from Xinjiang.
However, this new bill has a wider scope by assuming that all products coming from that region due to the extent of the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown on Uighurs are made with forced labor completely or partially, and therefore any imports coming from Xinjiang, will have to comply with the regulation, once the president makes it into law itself.
Among the companies that have been lobbying Congress to prevent the initiative from becoming law are Coca-Cola and Nike, which have been accused of using Uighur slave labor in their production chain.
In July, France’s national anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office opened a criminal investigation into the famous clothing brands Zara and Uniqlo because part of their clothing production is allegedly linked to the repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang.
In the text of the law, lawmakers highlight how difficult it is to determine that a product made in the region is not linked to CCP repression because the economy in Xinjiang operates with slave labor mixed with volunteer labor. Victims of state repression cannot speak freely to independent investigators for fear of reprisals, and the CCP gives economic incentives to local officials to hide these facts.
The forced labor prevention law concludes that since 2017, the CCP has arbitrarily detained 1.8 million Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups in a system of clandestine concentration camps. In addition to arbitrarily detaining many of them in official prisons and detention centers, it has subjected detainees to forced labor, torture, political indoctrination, forced sterilization, and other serious human rights violations.
However, there are previous reports of widespread use of forced labor including torture and sometimes death of prisoners of conscience detained in forced labor camps throughout China.
Minghui.org, a non-profit organization, has documented the persecution of Falun Dafa practitioners since 2000 and among its first-hand reports is evidence of the Chinese regime’s use of forced labor as early as 2001.
In 2012, after years of pressure from the international community, Chinese leader Xi Jinping shut down the system known as ‘re-education through labor’ which was used to mass-produce imported products with the forced and slave labor of people imprisoned for their beliefs.
The new law will add tension to the deteriorated relationship between the U.S. and the CCP to whom the world is closing the doors on various fronts as it continues to repress, torture, and kill innocent people in China.