Bipartisan Merkley Bill to Crack Down on Slave Labor in Xinjiang Passes Senate, Heads to President’s Desk

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, the Chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), announced today that legislation he co-authored with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has passed the U.S. Senate and is headed to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

The legislation, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, will ban U.S. imports of products that are made with slave labor in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China, where the Chinese government is committing genocide against the Uyghur minority and forcing Uyghurs to produce consumer goods in work camps, prisons, and factories.

“The United States must send a resounding and unequivocal message against genocide and slave labor wherever these evils appear,” Merkley said. “Getting this bill over the finish line and into law ensures that American consumers and businesses can buy goods without inadvertent complicity in China’s horrific human rights abuses. As the Chinese government tries to whitewash their genocide and claim a propaganda victory with the upcoming Olympics, this legislation sends a powerful, bipartisan message that the United States will not turn a blind eye.”

The White House confirmed earlier this week that President Joe Biden will sign the legislation into law.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act had previously passed both the Senate and the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, but the bill had become stalled due to differences between the Senate and House versions. As the Chair of the CECC, Merkley helped spearhead an effort along with Rubio, CECC Co-Chair Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA-02), and others to iron out the differences and reach a consensus version this week so that the bill could be sent to the President’s desk before the end of the year.

With the Beijing Olympic Games looming in early 2022, Merkley has been spearheading an effort at the CECC to highlight China’s human rights abuses in the lead-up to the Games and ensuring that China is not able to whitewash horrific abuses in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and throughout the country with a propaganda victory on the world stage. Each day between now and the opening ceremonies, Merkley and McGovern are highlighting a political prisoner from the CECC’s database to call attention to the Chinese government’s genocide in Xinjiang, brutal crackdowns on democracy activists in Hong Kong, and its numerous other abuses against journalists and dissidents. Merkley had urged the Biden administration to declare a diplomatic boycott of the Games, which the White House announced last week, and Merkley continues to speak out encouraging other democratic nations to join the international diplomatic boycott movement.