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The House Passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, But There's a Catch

Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP

On Wednesday night, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 428-1 in favor of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Its passage has been praised by both sides of the aisle, but that's not where the conversation ends. While it may have passed in one chamber, it's been tied up in the Senate. 

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According to the bill's text, its purpose is "Ensuring that goods made with forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China do not enter the United States market, and for other purposes." 

Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) was the bill's main sponsor in the House. The congressman focused on thanking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for her efforts. 

He's also pushed back against those taking issue with Pelosi. 

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who sponsored the Senate's version, has been particularly vocal about the need to send the bill over. 

The senator also released a statement on Wednesday in response to the House passing the bill. 

"I am glad the House is finally taking action to crack down on slave labor in China. However, the Biden Administration and some big corporations are still working to make sure this bill never becomes law. And they are already working to complicate things here in the Senate. Anyone who helps them stop our efforts while hiding behind procedures and technicalities should be called out for that," the statement said. 

Another piece of legislation that passed the House but has been held up in the Senate is the key defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Rubio was also credited with holding up the NDAA in the Senate when it comes to putting his foot down about the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. 

Sen. Rubio has been involved in raising awareness and passing legislation addressing the plight of the Uyghurs for years now, as I detailed back in March when also highlighting concerns regarding the lack of a proper response from the Biden administration in handling these human rights abuses from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

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"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," the senator told Townhall in a statement at the time. 

Then-President Donald Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 (S.3744) into law in 2020, which Rubio first introduced in 2018 with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ). 

A press release from Sen. Rubio's office at the time of its passing noted it was "the first piece of legislation regarding Uyghurs in the world to be signed into law." 

Thursday also brought the publication of an article by Chris Jewers of the Daily Mail, which detailed how "China subjected Uyghur Muslims to genocide through forced sterilisations and abortions 'that must have been authorised at highest levels' tribunal finds." 

Predictably, China smeared the London tribunal in question, which had mounted ample evidence. As Jewers reported:

But the panel said it was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) 'intended to destroy a significant part' of the Muslim Uyghur minority in the country's northwest and as such 'has committed genocide'. 

The CCP put in place 'a comprehensive system of measures to 'optimise' the population in Xinjiang' to reduce the Uyghur birth rate, including forced sterilisation, birth control and abortion.

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[Tribunal chair Sir Geoffrey Nice QC] said that those that were detained by China were largely released after indoctrination. This was part of a central government plan, ordered by the most senior of officials, to reintegrate Xinjang province and break up Uyghur culture.

'Hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs – with some estimates well in excess of a million – have been detained by PRC [People's Republic of China] authorities without any, or any remotely sufficient reason, and subjected to acts of unconscionable cruelty, depravity and inhumanity,' the tribunal's report says. 

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Nice said the tribunal would not have been necessary if an international court had been asked by governments, fearful of Beijing retaliation, to investigate.

He added there was an obligation to know the truth about the suffering of fellow humans, and breaches of international human law. 

Beijing - which offered no cooperation to the tribunal - dismissed its findings, and said the congress 'paid for liars, bought rumours and gave false testimony in an attempt to concoct a political tool to smear China'.

'This so-called tribunal has neither any legal qualifications or any credibility,' the foreign ministry said, calling the hearings 'a political farce'.

China has slapped sanctions on Nice, who prosecuted the former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes at the UN tribunal in The Hague.

He and the other members acknowledged that testimony came from people opposed to the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the CCP.

But they also examined thousands of pages of documentary evidence from independent researchers and human rights organisations.

The panel concluded that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, and possibly more than one million, had been detained without cause, and treated cruelly and inhumanely.

It said it was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that torture had occurred 'by or at the instigation of, or with the consent or acquiescence of, public officials or other persons acting in official capacities of the PRC and/or CCP'.

It upheld claims of imprisonment, forced transfer, enforced disappearances, rape and sexual violence, persecution and inhumane acts to the same standard of proof.

'The tribunal is satisfied that a comprehensive plan for the enactment of multiple but interlinked policies targeting the Uyghurs had been formulated by the PRC,' it added, saying President Xi Jinping and other senior officials 'bear primary responsibility'.

The plight of the Uyghurs has contributed to worsening diplomatic relations between Western powers and Beijing, which denies any abuses.

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Demands have been made for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to move the 2022 Winter Games out of Beijing, as well as for the United States to boycott the games. The games will take place there in just two short months, and President Joe Biden only earlier this week announced a diplomatic boycott of the games, meaning athletes will still compete but officials will not attend the game. 

"The impact of these political weapons on athletes at the games should be close to zero, and viewers should see no difference in their broadcast content," Graham Dunbar wrote in a Wednesday explainer for the Associated Press. 

The Biden administration has shown to be much more committed to achieving a climate deal with the CCP than addressing human rights abuses, with climate czar John Kerry, in particular, dismissing the idea of having any role in handling these abuses. 

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