Uyghur refugees got their chance to address members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday. Not only did committee members get an earful of what is going on in Xinjiang province with the Muslim minority group, but it is becoming more clear that some key members of Congress are losing their patience with American corporations more beholden to the CCP, than to their own market, and the values they claim to espouse.
For Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), ranking member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said it might be time to name and shame. He said he invited Nike to Thursday’s hearing, which featured two Uyghurs, including one who was arrested and held in one of Xinjiang’s notorious CCP “re-education facilities”.
Tursunay Ziyawudun, a Uyghur victim of the CCP, spoke through an interpreter about her time spent in two camps. She was released from the camps in December of 2018 and was – oddly enough — granted special parole to enter the United States in September of 2020.
Here’s a highlight from her testimony:
“We were told we had problems with our ideology and would education. If we ask questions, we were beaten. Because of my health condition, I was released after around one month. The second time I was sent to a camp was far worse. It has left an unforgettable scar on my heart. I was taken on March 8, 2018 and kept there for more than 10 months. Buses would arrive every day with more detainees. It was very overcrowded. There was a bucket in the corner for our toilet. There were cameras watching us inside the cell. We were always hungry. Each meal was a watery soup and a bun. We were given injections of unknown medications. Every day, we had to endlessly swear loyalty to the Chinese government and reject our faith. We had to watch endless videos about Xi Jinping. Girls would be taken away and only brought back days later. I saw girls lose their sanity because of it.”
Nike has publicly denied they sourced from the Uyghur areas and have denied Uyghur forced labor exists in their factories, McCaul said.
The same goes for Goldwind, one of the largest wind turbine manufacturers in the world. Goldwind installed over 40 turbines in the U.S. last year compared to only two in 2019, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.
McCaul also called out Disney, who “actually thanked the CCP propaganda office responsible for covering up the Uyghur genocide in the end credits in one of their most recent films Mulan they actually filmed portions of that movie in Xinjiang,” he said, adding what was the summation of the day’s hearing and a handful of laws, like the 2020 Uyghur Human Rights Act that have made it harder to do business in Xinjiang. “We cannot put profits ahead of doing what’s right,” McCaul said during his opening remarks yesterday. “The American people need to hear from these companies doing business with the CCP whether they’re household names or humans just trying to do the right thing or they’re companies who shamelessly do the bidding of the CCP to maintain their market access no matter what the moral cost is. The true nature of these Faustian deals needs to come to light so consumers can begin to know where their money is going.”
CPA has consistently advocated for a region-wide ban on all goods sourced from Xinjiang. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) enforced a regional ban on all cotton and tomato derivatives sourced from the far western province. We would also like to see polysilicon, a key material for making solar cells and microchips, added to that list.
Individual companies like state-run Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp., best known as XPCC, have been banned from exporting cotton and yarn products to the U.S. by the CBP. In addition to those so-called Withhold Release Orders against certain Xinjiang-based companies and product lines, Washington has imposed additional individual sanctions under the Magnitsky Act rule.
Nury Turkel, Chairman of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, has been one of the key players in all of this, gathering reports and sharing them with Homeland Security and others who then base the intel from those reports on their decision to withhold products at the border.
Turkel left Xinjiang 26 years ago, he said. His parents are still in Xinjiang. He told Congress in his witness testimony that U.S. companies have been canceling orders with XPCC, based on this March 14th editorial he cited by The Washington Post’s editorial board. “That shows that our strategy is working,” he said, noting that XPCC is at least partially run by municipal military forces and is known to use forced labor. “We’re on the right track, but these efforts have to be expanded.”
The Chinese government has endorsed a strategy of deflection and disinformation and has labeled any attention to human rights violations as “lies and rumors.” When companies like Hugo Boss and H&M said they would no longer source cotton from Xinjiang due to sanctions in the U.S., Beijing helped orchestrate an influencer campaign on social media that eventually went viral in China to stop shopping those brands.
The CCP now is producing a daily stream of videos claiming that China deserves praise for helping the Uyghurs. It forces Uyghurs to participate in denial that anything nefarious is happening beyond the prison gates. Officials in Xinjiang have forced them to dance and sign for the cameras to show how happy they are, being no different than a Han Chinese.
China’s government is also running an aggressive propaganda campaign against Western governments accusing it of forced labor, with the most recent effort being against retail brands like H&M.
Turkel said the Senate should “act quickly to pass Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which your committee marked up on April 21.”
McCaul said that “naming and shaming is a great idea” against those companies profiting off slave labor in concentration camps.
He reiterated what other members of Congress said last week, that there will be a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, but this time he went a step farther.
“I believe the corporate sponsors will still be involved and I think there needs to be some sort of corporate responsibility here,” he said. He was speaking to James A. Millward, a professor at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.
“In the past, a lot of people have looked at the Olympic issue and looked back at Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and said that the boycott was not useful,” Millward said. “But I think it was useful. I think we need to use the opportunity to have the conversation and to bring corporations into it, and to bring the athletes themselves into it and spread the message as opposed to just being a single up-and-down decision on sanctions being made by the president.”