By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Feb. 22: A new bipartisan bill prohibiting goods made by Uyghur forced labour from entering the US will also mandate an enforcement strategy for dealing with coerced labour by Tibetans, reported International Campaign for Tibet (ICT). The Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act will create a “rebuttal presumption” that goods made in Xinjiang are a result of forced labour and prohibited to enter the US, unless there is “clear and convincing” evidence to the contrary.
Representatives James P. McGovern, Chris Smith, Thomas R. Suozzi, Vicky Hartzler, Tom Malinowski, Mike Gallagher and Jennifer Wexton introduced the bill in the House on Thursday. The earlier version of the legislation was passed by the House in Sept. 2020 with an overwhelming majority of 406-3.
The updated bill includes new references to Tibet including the finding that “hundreds of thousands of rural residents of Tibet Autonomous Region participated in ‘military-style’ training, ideological education, and vocational training before being transferred to job postings in the [Tibet] Autonomous Region or elsewhere in China.” The bill notes the similarity of the forced labour system between the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
ICT Interim President Bhuchung K. Tsering remarked on the introduction of the bill, “Americans have long been strong supporters of the Tibetan people, and they do not want their goods and products tainted by the coerced labour of Tibetans living under China’s authoritarian rule. Similarly, Americans are appalled at China’s horrific treatment of Uyghurs, which the US government has labelled as genocide. We thank Reps. McGovern, Smith and their colleagues for making Tibet part of this urgent legislation, and we call on both houses of Congress to pass the bill with haste.”
The new bill will direct the US’ Forced Labour Enforcement Task Force to produce a strategy to address the forced labour in XUAR or goods made by Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Tibetans or members of other persecuted groups in any other part of the People’s Republic of China. The report noted the enforcement strategy will have to include a list of products made wholly or partly by the Tibetans or other members of the persecuted groups as well as a list of businesses of such products in the US.