December 8, 2021, 7:03 p.m. EST
For Immediate Release Contact: Omer Kanat +1 (202) 790-1795, Peter Irwin +1 (646) 906-7722
The Uyghur Human Rights Project welcomes today’s 428-1 vote passing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in the House of Representatives. The vote follows the Senate’s unanimous approval of a companion bill on July 15.
UHRP calls on the House and Senate to quickly reconcile the two bills and send the legislation to President Biden’s desk by the end of 2021.
“Uyghurs now have reason to hope that real leverage will be applied against the perpetrators of the ongoing international crimes against our people,” said UHRP Executive Director Omer Kanat. “We urge the House and Senate to make sure the bill becomes law without further delay.”
Uyghur Americans have held hundreds of meetings with their elected representatives, and sent thousands of messages, urging passage of the bill. “Our families in the Uyghur homeland are suffering unspeakable atrocities every day,” said Uyghur American Association Board Member Elfidar Iltebir. “This vote is a watershed and gives us hope.”
Prior to the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took the floor to denounce the “barbaric oppression” suffered by Uyghurs, quoting a Uyghur survivor on the Chinese government’s policy “to make us slowly disappear.” She emphasized the significance of today’s vote, just one day before the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Genocide Convention, on December 9, 1948.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “In 2021, any country that utilizes forced labor systematically to oppress and exploit a population is simply conscionable.” He called the Act a “strong message to the world.”
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Foreign Affairs Ranking Member, called China’s state-imposed forced labor “breathtaking” and “sickening.” He continued, “Free trade cannot involve slave labor. The Chinese Communist Party is using forced labor of Uyghurs and others to help bankroll its genocide against these very same groups […] and uses U.S. consumers to subsidize its atrocities.”
Emphasizing the strong bipartisan, bicameral support for the bill, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), the bill’s sponsor, thanked Speaker Pelosi and Committee Chairs Gregory Meeks, Richard Neal, and Maxine Waters for bringing the bill to the floor. Rep. McGovern pointed out that the Olympics will be held in two months “in the middle of a genocide” and that “Congress needs to do its part by passing this bill before the Olympics start.”
“This is Xi Jinping’s genocide,” noted Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the bill’s lead co-sponsor. Rep. Smith decried China’s ability to “profit big-time” from forced labor, and urged Congress to send the bill to the President’s desk as soon as possible, saying “delay is denial.”
Calling the bill “a major step forward,” Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Chair of the Congressional Uyghur Caucus, said the Act will have a tremendous impact, given that 84% of China’s cotton comes from the Uyghur Region, saying China’s forced labor program should “shock the conscience.”
Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) noted that she is proud to represent the largest Uyghur American community in the country, and said that “We must take steps to ensure that US companies and consumers are not complicit in the abuses.”
“Crimes against humanity require a response,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, further noting that “companies must be responsible for their supply chains.”
UHRP and fellow members of the Coalition to End Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region continue to call on companies worldwide to end business ties to the Uyghur Region.