The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (S. 3471) is designed to prohibit imports from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in northwest China to the United States, based on reports that China is not only forcing detainees in its vast network of internment camps to produce goods, but moving detainees out of the camps and into factories where they are forced to work under dire conditions for little to no wages.
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Global supply chains are “increasingly at risk of being tainted with goods and products made with forced labor from the XUAR,” the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) reported, warning that “the risk for complicity in forced labor is high for any company importing goods directly from the XUAR or those partnering with a Chinese company operating in the region.” The CECC report listed major multinational firms suspected of “directly employing forced labor or sourcing from suppliers that are suspected of using forced labor,” including Adidas, Nike, Costco, Calvin Klein, Esprit, H&M, Patagonia, Tommy Hilfiger, Coca-Cola, and the Campbell Soup Company. A similar report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said that more than 80,000 Uyghur detainees in the XUAR have been transferred to factories throughout China, where they are forced to produce goods for at least 83 global retailers, including Apple, BMW, The Gap, Samsung, Sony, Lenovo, Dell, HP, LG, and Volkswagen, among many others.
What’s troubling about the Uyghur forced labor situation is that many household names are potentially complicit in fueling the Uyghur labor machine, whether they know it or not. By blocking goods produced in Xinjiang from entering the U.S., the bill protects American consumers from unwittingly benefitting the perpetrators of potential genocide. It also protects U.S. corporations from fueling this monstrous machinery.
The legislation makes the critical finding that ordinary due diligence to ensure clean supply chains is unreliable in the Uyghur region because forced labor has been so seamlessly integrated into the regional economy and surveillance, coercion, and intimidation of workers are so systemic. Since the cleanness of the goods is exceedingly difficult to establish, the legislation assumes everything from the region is tainted by forced labor and blocks it from entering our shores, unless U.S. Customs and Border Protection can demonstrate they are clean with “clear and convincing evidence.”
The legislation would also require the U.S. government to impose Global Magnitsky sanctions on foreign persons who knowingly engage in Uyghur forced labor or attempt to violate U.S. law on importation of forced labor goods. Finally, it calls for the State Department to make a determination of whether crimes against humanity and genocide are underway in Xinjiang.
A bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers introduced the bill. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) was joined by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Todd Young (R-IN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) in introducing the legislation in the Senate. U.S. Representatives James P. McGovern (D-MA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Thomas Suozzi (D-NY), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Ted Yoho (R-FL), Jamie Raskin (R-MD), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), Mike Gallagher (R-WI), and Joe Wilson (R-SC) introduced companion legislation in the House, which passed with near-unanimity on September 22, 2020.