Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, gave the following floor statement in support of the Uyghur Forced Labor Disclosure Act of 2020, introduced by Representative Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), which passed on a bipartisan vote of 253-163.
I rise in strong support of H.R. 6270, the Uyghur Forced Labor Disclosure Act of 2020, important legislation introduced by Representative Wexton, a valued member of the Committee on Financial Services.
The Uyghur’s are a Turkic-speaking Muslim group, and are one of a number of Muslim groups in Xinjiang that are persecuted, arbitrarily arrested, detained in forced labor concentration camps and even executed. It has been reported by human rights advocates that over one million people are being held by the Chinese government in detention camps across the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
The Government of the People’s Republic of China falsely refers to these concentration camps as “vocational camps” or “re-education camps.” Make no mistake, the truth is that today, in 2020, one million human beings are being held in concentration camps, where they are beaten, starved, and forced to work long hours in conditions that can only be described as inhumane. Their relatives often have no idea where they are or whether they are alive. They are dying each day due to the cruelty of their living conditions and the brutality of the Chinese government, which executes them with impunity.
With these concentration camps, the Uyghur’s are used as slave labor to make goods and products for unsuspecting American consumers. Each day, millions of us unknowingly buy, use, and transport product made by the hands of people who are held in these government-run detention centers while their families wait for some proof of life that may never come.
A report published earlier this year by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute noted that Nike, Adidas and Apple all have supply chains that included Uyghur workers laboring under forced conditions. It is critical that investors in these companies be given the information they need to consider the legal, reputational and financial risk associated with investing in these, and other publicly traded US companies, with forced labor in their supply chain. And it is equally critical that when required to disclose this information, that these companies confront the reality of their choices and make decisions that don’t contribute to suffering, racism, and death.
Representative Wexton’s bill, H.R. 6270, is a necessary step in ending this injustice. Her bill would require the SEC to issue rules requiring publicly traded companies to annually disclose imports of manufactured goods and materials that originate, or are sourced in, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It would also require the SEC and the GAO to provide information to Congress regarding these disclosures, as well as oversight.
So I’d like to just speak briefly to the misleading letter from the Chamber of Commerce opposing HR 6270 on the grounds that a similar supply chain due diligence effort—that is, section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act, the Congo conflict mineral law—failed and caused the situation to worsen. I am encouraged by their letter because when your opponents have to use dishonest arguments to make their case, it means they have no legitimate ones to make.
So despite every effort on the other side of the aisle to take down the conflict mineral law, and to weaken and eliminate the conflict mineral rule, I am proud to say that support for Section 1502 has been sustained by a sense of moral responsibility, and by the fact that evidence is showing that the rule is having positive effects. Indeed, the conflict mineral rule continues to spur these intense efforts to operationalize and expand regional, national, and industry due diligence systems. The U.N. Group of Experts on the DRC has reported that Section 1502 “has had a massive and welcome impact so far, requiring chain participants all over the world to take due diligence and conflict financing seriously. This should not and must not be thrown away or weakened.”
Likewise, H.R. 6270 is a critical component of the effort by the House to marshal the might of the United States economy and American conscience to make clear the reprehensible nature of China’s actions on a minority in its country. This bill complements another bill that passed the House last week, H.R. 6210, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. That bill provides mechanisms that will require the United States to establish a diplomatic strategy and issue reports that will assist all interested parties in implementing H.R. 6270, and provides complementary disclosures forpublic companies. So If you supported HR 6210, you should also vote for HR 6270.
The bill before us also enjoys the support of a wide array of civic minded organizations, including the AFL-CIO, Public Citizen, the Uyghur American Association, Human Rights First, and the Uyghur Human Rights Association.
We must all stand up against the unjust and inhumane treatment of the Uyghurs and push China to end this brutality once and for all. And, I believe that resolve will not weaken just because China happens to be the second largest economy in the world. Just as each member of this Chamber knows that this is wrong, so do our U.S. companies, investors and the American public.
And so I’d like to just relate to some of what Mr. Green has said as he tried to make our friends on the opposite side of the aisle understand why we are so invested in this legislation. We are descendants of slaves, and let me say that one more time. We are descendants of slaves. And when we learn about slavery anywhere in the world, we are opposed to it. There is no justification for it. It does not matter whether it is the principals or the associates that are involved with the products and services, etc., as a result of slave labor. We are opposed to it. And we would ask our members on the opposite side of the aisle to have the sensitivity to that when they oppose slavery no matter where it is and who is causing it. And with that, I reserve the balance of my time.
(Watch here for additional remarks from Chairwoman Waters during floor debate on H.R. 6270.)
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