Sep 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

House votes to ban U.S. products made with forced labor in Xinjiang

Chinese flag.

The Chinese flag behind razor wire at a housing compound in China's western Xinjiang region. Photo: GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images

The House on Tuesday voted 406-3 in favor of a bill to ban products made with forced labor in China's mass detention camps.

Why it matters: The U.S. has ramped up pressure recently on China to address human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, where the Chinese government has engaged in a campaign of cultural and demographic genocide against Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities.

  • The legislation comes after Customs and Border Protection banned some imports of cotton, apparel, hair products, computer parts and other goods from the region earlier this month.
  • The importation of products made with forced labor is already illegal under U.S. law. This bill, if passed into law, would put a greater onus on companies to proactively prove that their products are not made with forced labor in Xinjiang.

Details: The bill, introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) with a companion bill in the Senate by Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), requires corporations to prove with “clear and convincing evidence” that products from China's Xinjiang region "are not made with forced labor."

  • Under the bill, the Secretary of State will be required to determine within 90 days whether the forced labor in the region is “widespread and systematic and therefore constitutes atrocities.”
  • The president would have to "identify and designate" visa or financial sanctions against any foreign person who “knowingly engages” in the forced labor in the region.

What they're saying: “Uyghurs around the world take hope from this vote,” said Uyghur Human Rights Project executive director Omer Kanat. “The Senate must also act, and all governments must enact measures to counter the Chinese government’s mass atrocities, committed on a scale not seen since World War II.”

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