House to vote on Uyghur bill amid diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics
The House is expected to vote this week on legislation to prohibit certain imports from China’s Xinjiang region, where the country’s government is accused of holding Uyghur Muslims in forced labor camps, and sanction officials involved in human rights abuses.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the legislation would come up for a vote this week in a Monday statement following the Biden administration’s announcement that the U.S. will not send any government officials to Beijing next year for the Olympic Games.
“As one united international community, we have the opportunity and responsibility to hold Beijing to account and to stand up for human dignity and freedom in the region and around the world,” Pelosi said.
The legislation, titled the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, would prohibit imports of goods produced in China’s Xinjiang region unless Customs and Border Protection determines they were not produced with forced labor.
The measure would also authorize sanctions on entities and individuals facilitating the forced labor of Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.
The White House on Monday cited China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang” in its announcement that it would not to send any diplomatic or official representation to the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said American athletes still have support from the Biden administration but that officials can’t treat the Olympics “as business as usual.”
“While we must support and celebrate our athletes, America – and the world – cannot give our official imprimatur to these games or proceed as if there is nothing wrong with holding the Olympics in a country perpetrating genocide and mass human rights violations,” Pelosi echoed in her statement.
A vote on the legislation to crack down on human rights abuses against Uyghurs would come after the Senate struggled to advance the annual defense policy bill last week in part because Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) demanded a vote on his amendment banning imports from Xinjiang.
The top leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees are expected to unveil a compromise defense bill as soon as Monday as a way to end the Senate standoff over GOP amendments. But a vote on a stand-alone bill to address human rights abuses against Uyghurs would still give lawmakers an opportunity to take up the issue without it getting mired in the annual defense policy legislation.
The vote would also come after lawmakers have taken other actions this year to exert diplomatic pressure on the Chinese government.
Back in April, the House passed a bipartisan resolution to formally condemn the Chinese government and Hong Kong regional government for actions that “violate the rights and freedoms” of the region’s citizens and called for the release of pro-democracy activists and politicians arrested under a national security law that imposed harsh punishments for protesters.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian last week denied that forced labor is prevalent in Xinjiang and called the legislation a front for undermining the region politically.
“The bill is pure political manipulation with the intention to undermine Xinjiang’s stability and development under the pretext of human rights,” he said, according to Bloomberg.