"They're not just labor camps, they are designed to strip them of their religious cultural identity." This is how Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) described the camps where 1-2 million Uyghur Muslims are detained by the Chinese government without trial and utilized as forced labor.
Unfortunately, many American companies are known to benefit from the cheap goods made from the forced labor of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Incredibly, well-known companies including Nike, Coca-Cola, and Apple have been caught lobbying to weaken a bill meant to address the issue.
In a stunning survey by the Wire China released this week, only one out of the top 48 American companies that operate in Xinjiang expressed any concern over the repression of Uyghurs. Corporations clearly lack concerned for any consequences of their cooperation with China.
This doesn't surprise Rubio, who re-introduced the bill these corporate lobbyists tried to target, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act alongside Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). Rubio described the dangers for companies operating China on Washington Watch: "The price of doing business in China, the price of having access to their market, is to come back to Washington and lobby policymakers in favor of their preferred policies."
Earlier today, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) held a hearing on how the United States might move forward to address the complicity of American companies in Uyghur forced labor.
At the hearing, expert witness Adrian Zenz identified the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act as "the best piece of policy that can be passed." It creates a rebuttable presumption to ensure that goods produced with Uyghur forced labor cannot enter the United States. Only if a company can clearly prove that their operations in Xinjiang are untainted by forced labor can products from Xinjiang be imported under the bill.
This requirement is important because it is so difficult to prove that anything that comes from Xinjiang is not stained by forced labor. "Every credible labor rights audit includes... candid interviews with workers about the conditions under which they are laboring," Scott Nova explained at the hearing. "Such candid testimony can only be obtained if workers can speak honestly without fear of retribution."
Xinjiang's forced labor is no small issue. Zenz emphasized that it affects millions of religious and ethnic minority workers in China.
Witness testimonies highlighted the need for other countries to join U.S. efforts in support of human rights in China.
Louisa Greve pointed out that the U.S. has imposed 68 sanctions on China for its atrocities in Xinjiang. These include import bans, export bans, and Global Magnitsky Act sanctions on individuals. No other country in the world has imposed economic sanctions over human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
The U.S. determination that genocide is occurring compels U.S. leaders to continue leading the way in combatting these atrocities.
Family Research Council released a report today titled "How the United States Can Address China's Uyghur Genocide." It offers four next steps the Biden administration should take to punish China for genocide according to the 1948 Genocide Convention.
These include encouraging Congress to pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, ensuring that U.S. support for the UN Population Fund does not contribute to coerced sterilizations in China, applying targeted sanctions, and encouraging like-minded countries to condemn China's atrocities.
China's economic clout makes addressing abuses tricky. Louisa Greve noted that the U.S. did not merely determine that genocide was being committed by Xinjiang authorities, but by the Chinese government. This raises the question, is it appropriate for Western companies to be investing in China at all? Greve said, "Everyone needs to think twice about doing business with a genocidal regime."
Uyghur activist Rushan Abbas also questions companies' decisions to sponsor the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. It brings to mind the Olympics that took place in Nazi Germany, but Rushan pointed out a distinction to The Wired China, "In Nazi Germany, when businesses were making profits off of Jewish forced labor, they claimed ignorance -- blaming the information flow being too slow. But companies can't claim ignorance now." It is shameful that even as cancel culture rages, the Chinese government can commit genocide with near impunity.
Family Research Council President and USCIRF Vice Chair Tony Perkins concluded the hearing by saying, "International trade is important, but it cannot be untethered to a commitment to fundamental agreed upon human rights." The Chinese Communist Party runs a materialistic regime, but the United States was founded with core values which rise above that.
The United States must adhere to our principles. By combatting forced labor and standing up for the rights of oppressed religious groups abroad, America can set a positive example for the rest of the world.