A bill that will prevent the US from importing goods produced using forced labor by Uyghurs and other minority Muslim populations in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China passed the House on Wednesday evening.
The vote was 428-1. Republican Thomas Massie of Kentucky was the only member to vote against it.
The measure will also impose sanctions on “those responsible for human rights violations there,” the bill’s summary states.
Under the legislation, new restrictions will be placed on imports from Xinjiang by US Customs and Border Protection to ensure that goods produced through forced labor by Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and members of other minority groups will not be purchased or sold in the US.
The legislation requires President Joe Biden to provide a list of individuals responsible for forced labor of these groups, including “any official of the government of the People’s Republic of China,” and to impose economic sanctions on them, the House version of the bill states. The measure will further prevent individuals identified as responsible for these human rights abuses from getting visas or admission to the US.
“China, you know, uses child labor and they have very, very horrible working conditions, and I don’t think we should be aiding and abetting that,” Rep. Adriano Espaillat, a New York Democrat, said shortly after the bill passed.
The House also passed a resolution on Wednesday condemning the “ongoing genocide” and “crimes against humanity being committed against Uyghurs” and members of other minority religious and ethnic groups in China. The resolution passed 427-1, with Massie again the only dissenting vote.
A similar bill with the same title, the Uyghur Forced Labor Relations Act, passed the Senate in July and had not been taken up in the House. The House version will now go to the Senate before it can head to President Joe Biden’s desk.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, put a hold on the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act last week, threatening to maintain his hold on the must-pass legislation until the Uyghur bill, which he is the sponsor of, was taken up for a vote in the House or an amendment with similar provisions was added to the defense measure.
Rubio’s amendment could not be added to the Senate version of the defense legislation, because of a procedural issue where bills that involve raising revenue must originate in the House.
“Now, going back to the broader issue, everyone here is in favor of this bill, and everyone here is against slave labor of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, and the only impediment is some House rule because this theoretically raises revenue, which it doesn’t, then they should just pass the House version of the bill and send it here,” Rubio told reporters last week.
Leaders from both parties and both chambers pre-conferenced the final version of the Natonal Defense Authorization Act and agreed to pass that version in the House first. The measure passed the House late Tuesday night with broad bipartisan support, 363-70. It is expected to head to the Senate as soon as this week.
Ultimately, a provision regarding Uyghurs was also added to the defense bill. The provision prevents Department of Defense funds from being used to buy any “products mined, produced or manufactured wholly or in part by forced labor” in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China, the bill states.
This story has been updated with further details.