Friday, December 17, 2021

STOPPING THE GENOCIDE: House, Senate Approve Anti-Forced-Labor Bill to Punish Communist China For Uyghur Oppression

Source: Bloomberg

Published: December 16, 2021

By: Daniel Flatley

The U.S. Senate passed legislation Thursday that would ban goods from China’s Xinjiang region unless companies prove they weren’t made with forced labor, sending the measure to President Joe Biden for his signature.

The bipartisan bill, which passed without objections in both the House and Senate, is aimed at punishing China for what lawmakers called the oppression of the Uyghur Muslims.

The legislation reflects sentiment among both parties favoring a stronger line against China amid rising tension between the world’s two largest economies. The field of conflict encompasses differences over human rights, trade and Beijing’s growing diplomatic and military ambitions.

Multiple Actions

The Biden administration on Thursday added 34 Chinese targets -- including 11 research institutes within the Academy of Military Medical Sciences -- to its banned-entity list, saying they are part of a network that misuses biometric surveillance technology to track and repress ethnic and religious minorities.

Last week, the Treasury Department sanctioned a Chinese company -- SenseTime Group Inc. -- and two individuals over the alleged oppression of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, located in western China. The U.S. also has announced it won’t send an official delegation to the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February.

The new bill would require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to create a list of entities that collaborate with the Chinese government in the repression of the Uyghurs, a predominately Muslim ethnic minority, as well as other groups. It also contains a “rebuttable presumption” that assumes all goods from the region were made with forced labor unless the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection gives an exception.

The legislation got side-tracked on Wednesday, when Senator Ron Wyden blocked it because Republicans wouldn’t agree to add an unrelated extension of the child tax credit, which is part of the stalled tax-and-spending plan Democrats are trying to pass.

Wednesday Wrinkle

Wyden said that while he agreed with the spirit of the bill, he wanted to see the Senate act on multiple fronts.

“You bet we’re against forced labor, you bet we’re against genocide, but we also have had a long tradition of standing up for vulnerable kids, vulnerable families,” Wyden said Wednesday. “And tonight, we could have attained two bold objectives.”

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill and has been a prime driver in Congress for pushing back on China, rejected Wyden’s gambit.

The bill “ensures that American consumers and businesses can buy goods without inadvertent complicity in China’s horrific human rights abuses,” Senator Jeff Merkley, the lead Democratic sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “As the Chinese government tries to whitewash their genocide and claim a propaganda victory with the upcoming Olympics, it is more important than ever for us to speak out and take action.”

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