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House OKs bill aimed at forced labor in China

New measure targets goods made by detained ethnic minorities

WASHINGTON — For the second time in two weeks, the House on Wednesday approved a bill aimed at cracking down on U.S. imports of goods made with the forced labor of detained ethnic minorities in China.

The bill would require publicly traded companies in the U.S. to disclose whether any of their goods — or any part of their supply chain — can be traced to internment camps or factories suspected of using forced labor of Muslim Uighurs or other ethnic minorities in China.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., was approved 253-163 and now goes to the Senate.

Its passage follows approval last week of a bill aimed at barring U.S. imports of goods produced in the vast Xinjiang region of northwestern China on the presumption that they were likely made with forced labor. That bill, authored by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., was approved Sept. 22 on 406-3 vote.

If enacted into law, the two proposals could have significant ripple effects in global trade by forcing companies to avoid a region that produces 80% of the cotton in China, as well as tomatoes and manufactured goods.

Lawmakers say the measures are needed to press China to stop a campaign that has resulted in the detention of more than 1 million Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups under brutal conditions.

“If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interest, we lose all moral authority to speak about human rights anywhere in the world,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a floor speech last week.

Wexton, whose northern Virginia district is home to one of the largest Uighur communities in the U.S., said her bill would inform investors and markets about active exploitation occurring in one of the largest ongoing human rights violations in the world.

“For years, the government of the People’s Republic of China has been engaged in the mass internment of religious minorities in the Xinjiang region,” Wexton said. The camps supply materials for some of the largest companies in the world, “and some of these products are finding their way to U.S. consumers,” including cellphones and T-shirts, Wexton said.

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