By Terence P. Jeffrey, The Daily Caller News Foundation | October 19, 2023
It was a rare moment of bipartisan consensus in Washington, D.C.
On Dec. 14, 2021, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act came up for a vote in the House. It passed on a voice vote.
Two days later, the Senate approved it by unanimous consent. President Joe Biden then signed it into law.
What does it do? It “imposes importation limits on goods produced using forced labor in China, especially the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and imposes sanctions related to such forced labor,” said its official summary.
Why was an otherwise deeply divided Congress so unified on this? Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer provided the answer.
“The Senate just passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Bill to ban the sale of goods made by Uyghur slave labor in China,” Schumer said in a tweet. “This Senate will not stay silent in the face of genocide against the Uyghur people.
“America will not stand for it,” Schumer said, “and the global community shouldn’t either.”
What basis did Schumer have for accusing the People’s Republic of China of engaging in genocide against the Uyghur people?
As this column has noted before, President Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken have both stated that the People’s Republic of China is engaging in genocide against the Uyghurs.
Pompeo issued a statement the day before the Trump administration left office. It said: “(A)fter careful examination of the available facts, I have determined… that the PRC, under the direction and control of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state.”
At a confirmation hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Secretary of State nominee Blinken if he agreed with Pompeo.
“Yes,” Blinken said.
When the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act passed the House in 2021, White House press secretary Jen Psaki put out a statement supporting the bill — and calling for China to be held “accountable for genocide.”
“The President welcomes the agreement by Congress on the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act,” Psaki said. “We agree with Congress that action can and must be taken to hold the People’s Republic of China accountable for genocide and human rights abuses and to address forced labor in Xinjiang.”
In the 22 months since Biden signed this law, the United States has continued to engage in significant trade — and run massive trade deficits — with the People’s Republic of China.
In 2022, the United States imported $536.30 billion in goods from the PRC but exported only $154.01 billion — resulting in a trade deficit of $382.29 billion. In January through August of this year, the United States has imported $275.78 billion in goods from the PRC but has exported only $94.01 billion — resulting in an eight-month trade deficit of $181.77 billion.
In March, as this column has noted before, Biden’s State Department released its 2022 country reports on human rights. In the preface to these reports, Blinken said: “In Xinjiang, in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the country report describes how genocide and crimes against humanity continued to occur against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.”
Three weeks ago, Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, the chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, sent a letter to Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. It requested that they “rigorously enforce the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act (UHRPA) and the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA).”
The UHRPA was enacted in 2020 and, according to its summary, “imposes sanctions on foreign individuals and entities responsible for human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and requires various reports on the topic.”
Gallagher’s letter said, “The PRC government’s ongoing genocide should not go without consequence.”
Schumer last week led a bipartisan delegation of six senators on a trip to China, where they met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. At the end of this trip, Schumer held a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. A video and transcript of that press conference have been posted on the embassy’s website.
“Our bipartisan Senate delegation spoke candidly with President Xi about a range of issues and our respective priorities,” Schumer said.
What did that include?
Schumer noted that trade was one. “We raised the huge structural inequalities and serious imbalances the U.S. faces in its economic and trade relationship with China,” Schumer said.
Fentanyl was another. “We urged President Xi to open a channel of communication to stem the flow of fentanyl precursor chemicals that are fueling America’s fentanyl crisis,” said Schumer.
Generally promoting freedom and democracy was another. “Our delegation is clear that we do not seek a confrontation with China,” said Schumer. “But we will remain steadfast in our commitment to promoting stability in the region, freedom and democratic principles, and vigorously defend our values.”
Schumer also brought up Hamas’ outrageous attack on Israel and China’s pathetic response to it. “I told him how deeply disappointed I was,” Schumer said.
“We also, a bunch of us made the request that China use its influence on Iran to not allow the conflagration to spread,” he said.
China’s relationship with Russia was yet another issue. “But we made clear over and over again that we thought that China doesn’t help itself by aligning itself with Putin, that China cares about world opinion,” said Schumer.
“We spent 80 minutes with President Xi, we thought it would be much, maybe half of that. But he was engaged,” Schumer said at the end of the briefing.
It was only 22 months before this visit to China that Schumer had said, “This Senate will not stay silent in the face of genocide against the Uyghur people.” But in his press briefing in Beijing, he did not mention the Uyghurs once.
Terence P. Jeffrey is investigative editor for the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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