On Wednesday night, the U.S. Senate passed legislation by unanimous consent which will forbid products made from the Uyghur slave labor from entering the United States. The bill, known as the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (S.65), was the bipartisan effort from Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Both Rubio and Merkley are members the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), which Merkley is the chairman of.
More than half of the senators co-sponsored the legislation, including Republicans, Democrats, and both Independent senators, Bernie Sanders (VT) and Angus King (ME).
The legislation, according to a press release from Sen. Rubio’s office, “will ensure that goods tainted with the forced labor of Uyghurs, and others, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and by certain entities affiliated with the China Communist Party (CCP) do not enter the U.S. market.”
Also included in the press release were statements from Sens. Rubio and Merkley:
“The message to Beijing and any international company that profits from forced labor in Xinjiang is clear: no more,” Rubio said. “We will not turn a blind eye to the CCP’s ongoing crimes against humanity, and we will not allow corporations a free pass to profit from those horrific abuses. Once this bill passes the House and is signed by the President, the United States will have more tools to prevent products made with forced labor from entering our nation’s supply chains. We cannot afford any further delay, and I call on my colleagues in the House to promptly send this bill to the President.”
“Today the Senate is sending a clear message that the United States will not be complicit in the Chinese government’s genocide of Uyghur Muslims,” Merkley said. “Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang are being forced into labor, tortured, imprisoned, forcibly sterilized, and pressured to abandon their religious and cultural practices by the Chinese government. No American corporation should profit from these abuses. No American consumers should be inadvertently purchasing products from slave labor.”
Humans rights groups have highlighted the systemic genocide and oppression of the Uyghur Muslims at the hands of the CCP. Such people have been subject to human rights abuses such as concentration camps, family separations, slave labor, rape and forced abortions, as well as sterilization and forced IUDs as a form of eugenics.
A May 16 editorial from The Washington Post highlighted the population decline which the Uyghurs are facing.
Predictably, the CCP has denied claims of these concentration camps, and rather refers to them as training camps to get rid of extremism.
Sen. Rubio has supported the plight of Uyghur Muslims from years. He also provided a statement to Townhall in March, about the legislation which just passed on Wednesday.
“The Trump Administration rightly determined that Beijing’s heinous acts against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities constitute crimes against humanity and genocide. It is now the time for Congress to pass meaningful legislation such as my Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to ensure the CCP does not profit from its abuses. This bipartisan bill would address the systematic use of Uyghur forced labor and create a mechanism to ensure that Americans aren’t unknowingly complicit in the consumption of goods made by forced labor,” said the senator in March.
On June 17, 2020, then President Donald Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 (P.L. 116-145), into law, which, according to Sen. Rubio’s office, is “the first piece of legislation on Uyghur human rights to be signed into law in the world.”
Sen. Rubio referenced the legislation during a May 2021 appearance on Fox News.