Uyghur Human Rights Bill to Proceed in House, Democrat Says
(Bloomberg) -- A senior Democrat said the U.S. House is poised to take up legislation related to human rights in China next week, potentially including a bill that would target goods produced in the Xinjiang region where the government is allegedly holding Uyghur Muslims in forced labor camps.
“I believe very strongly that we will move forward on it,” House Rules Chair Jim McGovern said after leaving a meeting in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. “Next week is an important week for human rights -- International Human Rights Day,” he added, “and we think it’s important to move some China legislation, hopefully much of it focused on human rights and the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, we want to see that get over the finish line in some form.”
McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, is the chief sponsor of the Uyghur bill and he said it could move as part of a package of legislation. A similar bill in the Senate sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley has already passed the Senate, but action in the House had been stalled. Rubio has been threatening to hold up a must-pass defense policy bill unless it got included on that legislation as a way to force the House to act.
Rubio suggested that the administration had been leaning on Democrats to delay the Uyghur measure, while Merkley said there was some “hesitancy” on the administration’s part and “I disagree with it.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last month that the administration was offering “technical assistance on the legislation.”
“It’s pretty common for the White House to work with Congress on either technical assistance or other assistance,” Psaki said on Nov. 12. “We want to make sure any bill is implementable.”
McGovern said he’s not aware of White House concerns or objections.
“Not that they’ve talked to me about,” he said.
Pelosi on Thursday said she backed the House and Senate passing “the strongest possible Uyghur bill.”
“As I said for over 30 years, I have been considered the most disliked -- they use stronger words than that -- person in China because of my assault on their human-rights violations,” she said.
Read More: China’s Unfair Labor Practices Said to Harm U.S. Security
Speaking Friday at a press briefing in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called allegations that forced labor is used in Xinjiang “a lie.”
“The bill is pure political manipulation with the intention to undermine Xinjiang’s stability and development under the pretext of human rights,” he said, adding that the U.S. “should pay more attention to its own problems. Chinese people are living a good life, enjoying their life, which does not need any concern from the U.S. side.”
The House bill requires 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, and other groups. It also contains a “rebuttable presumption” that assumes all goods were made with forced labor unless the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection gives an exception.
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