New York, New York — During the week of September 21, two bills were on the calendar to been seen by the House of Representatives regarding the forced labor of the Uyghur population in the Xinjiang territory of China. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act passed in the House on September 22, and the Uyghur Forced Labor Disclosure Act of 2020 passed in the House on September 30.
Nancy Pelosi Urges for Bipartisan Support of Both Bills
On September 22, Nancy Pelosi delivered a speech to the House of Representatives in support of both bills. She urged for a strong bipartisan vote to back both pieces of legislation.
“We must shine a light on the inhumane practice of forced labor, hold the perpetrators accountable and stop this exploitation. And we must send a clear message to Beijing: these abuses must end now,” said Pelosi.
H.R. 6210: Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act was introduced to Congress on March 11, 2020, by Representative James “Jim” McGovern of Massachusetts. On September 22, it passed in the House with a majority vote of 406 to 3. Republicans Thomas Massie, Warren Davidson and Libertarian Justin Amash were the sole three representatives to vote against the bill. It will now progress to be considered in the Senate.
The bill outlines findings that as many as 1.8 million members of Muslim minority groups, including the Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, are being subjected to severe human rights abuses and arbitrary detainment in mass internment camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. These abuses include, but are not limited to, forced labor, torture and political indoctrination.
According to Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1307), it is illegal to import “goods, wares, articles and merchandise mined, produced or manufactured wholly or in part” by forced labor. H.R. 6210 would prohibit the import of all goods made in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region unless they can prove that the goods in question have not been made with forced labor. The bill would also encourage the international community to reduce their import of goods from this region.
Actions to End Forced Labor in Xinjiang
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act also outlines the need to create an enforcement strategy to end forced labor. This would include a list of actions taken by the U.S. government to address forced labor in this region, a list of products made through forced labor, a list of facilities and entities that have relied on forced labor and a list of high priority sectors for enforcement, which would include cotton and tomatoes. Visa and financial sanctions, export restrictions and import controls would be imposed on anyone who knowingly engages in facilitating forced labor in Xinjiang, or in support of forced labor goods
Additionally, the bill seeks to protect investors through the enactment of an amendment to Section 13 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. This would require securities issuers to disclose information related to forced labor in Xinjiang to the SEC. This would include whether the issuer knowingly assisted with creating mass surveillance systems in Xinjiang, engaged with entities running detention facilities in Xinjiang or acquired large amounts of textiles produced in Xinjiang.
Lastly, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act also calls to determine if these crimes against Muslim minority groups in China are systematic and widespread, and therefore crimes against humanity or genocide.
H.R. 6270: Uyghur Forced Labor Disclosure Act of 2020
The Uyghur Forced Labor Disclosure Act of 2020 was introduced on March 12, 2020, by Representative Jennifer Wexton of Virginia. It was passed in the House on September 30, 2020.
H.R. 6270 also outlines the findings of human rights violations in the Xinjiang province of China and proposes another additional Amendment to Section 13 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 that would require public disclosure from issuers of securities surrounding their activities in Xinjiang.
Passing the two bills is necessary to protect investors and consumers from unknowingly involving themselves with potential crimes against humanity. Uyghur forced labor is an international human rights issue that is directly affecting the global supply chain, and it is critical that the international community is actively working to end this.