House advances bill aimed at imports tied to Uighur forced labor
A bill aimed at shining a light on corporations benefiting from the use of China’s forced labor camps, which have targeted Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region, moved forward in the House on Wednesday, setting up a vote for final passage next week.
Lawmakers vote 229 to 187 on a rule for floor debate on the legislation.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Disclosure Act of 2020 — spearheaded by Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) — would require companies that are publicly traded in the United States and do business within the region to disclose information on their supply chains, including whether their products could be made by forced labor.
Proponents of the legislation argue it is a step in the right direction in taking a stand against human rights abuses in the region.
“This legislation is essential to protect American investors and consumers through stronger disclosure requirements alerting them to Chinese and international companies whose operations enable the mass internment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said on the House floor.
“It represents a clear and material risk to shared values and the corporate reputations of these companies and US investors and consumers,” McGovern added.
Critics argued that while they agree the United States needs to take action to crackdown on human rights violations, certain provisions in the bill that could place unnecessary regulatory burdens on companies. Republicans also took aim at Democrats for not having the bill go through the committee process.
“While the bill takes strong action to ensure American businesses are not complicit in China’s forced labor programs, there are outstanding concerns in the bill that may harm U.S. businesses. For instance, the bill requires public companies to file disclosures with the SEC if they imported manufactured goods or other materials that originated in or are sourced in the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region and disclose whether those goods originated in forced labor camps,” Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) said on the floor ahead of the vote.
“These entities would also have to disclose the nature and extent of the commercial activity related to each good or material, the gross revenue, and net profits attributable, and whether they intend to continue importing the goods. China’s atrocities against Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups must come to an end and we voted on that bill yesterday in a bipartisan fashion.”
Republicans have repeatedly slammed Democrats over not being hard enough on China, making it a key component of their campaign strategy.
Updated on Sept. 24 at 5:35 p.m.