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Floor Speech on Legislative Package to Hold Beijing Accountable for Human Rights Abuses

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of three pieces of legislation to counter human rights abuses committed by the People’s Republic of China, including H.R. 1155, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act; H. Res. 837, expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that Beijing should immediately guarantee the safety and freedom of tennis star Peng Shuai; and H. Res. 317, condemning the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity being committed against Uyghurs and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups by the People’s Republic of China.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the recognition.

I salute the distinguished Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee for his leadership in bringing this legislation to the floor.  It’s historic, and I want to join him in saluting Mr. McCaul, who has been a champion for human rights.  We have worked together for years on these subjects.  So, thank you both, for your leadership. 

As has been recognized earlier, Mr. Speaker, this week marks a momentous milestone in human history.  Seventy-three years ago this week – tomorrow, actually – the international community convened in Paris to approve the United Nations Genocide Convention.  In doing so, the world forged an historic commitment to always condemn and combat the crime of genocide, which they defined two years prior as, quote, ‘a denial of the right of existence,’ which, quote, ’shocks the conscience of mankind,’ and is, quote, ‘a matter of international concern.’

Today, in some ways, we are falling short on that promise.  In its latest Human Rights Report, our own State Department has definitively declared that the barbaric oppression of the Uyghur by the government of China amounts to genocide, we salute the Administration for that recognition.  And new research of the United States Holocaust [Memorial] Museum sheds light on those crimes, with a survivor describing Beijing’s intentions as, quote, ‘to make us slowly disappear – so slowly that no one would notice.’  Indeed, the erasure of the Uyghurs is so precisely the definition of genocide from three quarters of a century ago. 

And that is why, with a strong bipartisan package of legislation we will pass today, the House takes yet another bold, bipartisan step to counter these crimes against humanity.  You have us honoring the challenge to our conscience, and I thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member McCaul.

Congress and the country are grateful to relentless leaders of the legislation before us.  At the helm of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, as well as the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Chairman Jim McGovern has long served as a voice for the voiceless – not only in China, but around the world.  With his Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, we are taking a decisive action against the exploitation of the Uyghur people.  We are stepping up to the plate.

I salute, again, Congressman Michael McCaul, with a resounding resolution condemning the genocide of the Uyghurs in China.  And thank you to Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, with her resolution demanding that Beijing immediately guarantee the safety and freedom of tennis star Peng Shuai.  Thanks to Chairs Gregory Meeks, Richie Neal and Maxine Waters for their long-standing leadership in the House’s fight against forced labor. 

Put together, this legislation, which we will pass today, makes it unequivocally clear the House’s firm commitment to human rights in China.  And, does so in a bipartisan way.  And that has always been the case over time: Chris Smith and I have been working on these issues for decades together with others – Frank Wolf was here before him, but many on both sides of the aisle. 

Right now, Beijing is orchestrating a brutal and accelerating campaign of repression against the Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities.  In Xinjiang, across China, millions are enduring outrageous human rights abuses: from mass surveillance and disciplinary policing; to mass torture including solitary confinement and forced sterilizations; intimidation of journalists and activists who is have dared to expose the truth.  And, the government of China’s exploitation of forced labor reaches across the oceans to our shores and across the world. 

They always say that the most horrible form of torture to a prisoner of – someone in these camps is to say to them, ‘Nobody knows you’re even here.’  ‘Nobody even cares about you.’  We want those people – the Uyghurs and others repressed in China – to know that we do care about them.  We know many of them by name.  We will never forget our responsibility to act upon the actions that the Chinese government is engaged in. 

That’s why the Uyghur Forced Labor [Prevention] Act employs America’s great economic might to combat this brutality and hold the perpetrators accountable: blocking certain imports produced with forced labor, leveling sanctions against the perpetrators, imposing disclosure requirements on companies engaged in Xinjiang.  And, through this strong bipartisan legislation we are better able to fight forced labor.  We shine a bright light on this pattern of abuse.  And we send Beijing a clear message: this genocide must end now. 

As we focus on this genocide against the Uyghurs, we must also remember Beijing’s decades-long assault on human rights.  Those of us who have long been in this fight for human rights in China have seen a regime of terror and repression that has only intensified: from Tibet, to Taiwan, to assaults to basic freedoms in Hong Kong and beyond, to jailing of journalists and obtaining – detaining of dissidents, and more.

In the Congress for decades, we have taken strong, bipartisan action fighting for human rights in China.

That is why, in 1991, Democrats and Republicans together – stood together for free speech during a visit to Tiananmen Square, just two years after the government’s infamous crackdown.

That is why, 1993, in a bipartisan way, we convinced the world that China’s abysmal record on human rights disqualified the nation from hosting the 2000 Olympic Games.

That is why, in 2000, I took to this Floor to urge my colleagues to block China from the World Trade Organization, arguing that we should not put deals ahead of ideals.  And China has not honored the agreement.

That is why, in 2015, working together, we had a Congressional declaration to Tibet – Delegation to Tibet, to see the aspirations in the eyes of the schoolchildren who have endured China’s and – Beijing’s intimidation.

And, that is why, in 2019, working together, we sounded the alarms as the Chinese government locked up pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong.

Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, have come together to enact strong policies standing up for human rights in China, including the Tibetan Policy and Support Act; the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act; and the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act – all enacted into law, signed into law. 

And for decades, many of us have fought against normal trade – what they call ‘normal trade relations’ – with China.  Because as the world’s strongest economy, America has a moral duty to tie our trade relations with human rights.  When China joined the WTO, twenty years ago this week, the world gave Beijing a blank check: prospect – prospering from its abuses while simply hoping it would change its behavior.  Many of us knew then, as we know today, that this approach was fated for failure – and today’s legislation will help right this wrong. 

But we must respond with more than legislation.  We must show leadership.  As House Speaker, I applaud and support President Biden’s strong leadership in announcing there will be no official U.S. presence at the 2022 Winter Olympics.  Allowing a country with a dismal human rights record to host the games makes a mockery of the Olympic Charter, which states that the games should seek to foster, quote, ‘respect for universal and fundamental, ethical principles.’

Make no mistake: our athletes can and should be celebrated.  But this year, we should celebrate them from home.  They can be there; we should be home.

As I noted when I called for the diplomatic boycott last May, the world must not reward more than three decades of abusive and repressive actions by the Chinese government by giving our official imprimatur to China.  And, I thank Mr. McCaul for his leadership, particularly, in calling out the Olympic Committee for making this choice. 

Mr. Speaker, today we have an opportunity for further progress in the fight for human rights in China, a fight that many of us have been extraordinarily proud to help lead over our careers in Congress.  Because, if we not – Mr. Speaker, if we do not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial or economic ties, we lose all moral authority to speak out against human rights violations anywhere in the world.  And, we must never fail to live up to our sacred duty, to safeguard the dignity and worth of every person and build a better future for generations to come.

Proudly, this legislation – all of it, Mr. McCaul’s, Mr. McGovern’s, Ms. Wexton’s, leadership of the Chair and Ranking – the Chair, Mr. Meeks, and Ranking Member, Mr. McCaul, of the Committee.  That’s why it’s earned overwhelming bipartisan support – thank you, Mr. McCaul – when we passed it in the House last year, and I hope we will do so again this year. 

With that, I urge a strong vote for the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, the other legislation that is before us this afternoon.  And do so asking for a very strong bipartisan vote, so that we know that we will have the numbers to send a message to the Chinese government that this is bipartisan, bicameral on both sides of the Capitol and a view shared by the President of the United States.

With that, I ask for an ‘aye’ vote all around and yield back the balance of my time.

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