This Wednesday, June 16, 217 Democratic representatives in the House voted against an amendment proposed by Republican Andy Barr of Kentucky that would force U.S. companies to report to the Treasury Department if there are any ties to Uighur slave labor in Xinjiang province.
The amendment was added to H.R. 1187, or the ESG Disclosure Simplification Act, which requires companies to disclose to shareholders their performance on certain environmental, social, and governance metrics.
Under that initiative, companies would have had to annually disclose to shareholders their activities with any “foreign entity” that “engages in, is responsible for, or facilitates forced labor of Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region.”
“We must cut off offenders from the global economy until China changes course. We must rely on appeals to their bottom line, not their conscience,” Barr said on the House Floor.
“If we are truly concerned by public companies who may be working with bad actors, particularly bad actors responsible for China’s worst human rights abuses, then burying their name on the SEC’s website will achieve absolutely nothing. We need to ensure that they are referred to the Treasury Department so that we can impose sanctions.”
The amendment included sanctions for foreign entities using forced labor, building detention camps, or providing technology for mass surveillance in Xinjiang.
Currently, economic sanctions are imposed on the Chinese Communist regime for Uighur human rights abuses stemming from the Trump era. In addition to the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada joined the countries, pressuring the CCP over the situation in Xinjiang.
In its last days in the White House and with the leadership of Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, the Trump administration banned the import of tomatoes and cotton from the Xinjiang autonomous region because these products use the forced labor of Uighurs who are imprisoned in concentration camps to be “re-educated” supposedly because for the CCP they are all “terrorists.”
In May, customs in California detained a shipment of Uniqlo-branded clothing from Fast Retailing Co., one of Asia’s largest Japanese-owned textile companies, because it was made from Xinjiang cotton.
However, according to the Daily Caller, there are large corporations that keep their production in Xinjiang and, with a few exceptions, have not taken any public action to prevent their products from continuing to fuel the abuses of the Uyghurs in China, and this is where Representative Barr’s amendment was intended to aim, at the profits of these corporations.
Among the most well-known global companies with ties to the Xinjiang region are Amazon, Tesla, Procter and Gamble, Boeing, Disney, Disney, Ford, General Motors, Starbucks, Nike, and Under Armor.
Both Under Armor, the sportswear brand, and Nike issued a public statement expressing concern about the reports of abuse against Uyghurs and declaring their intention to get to the bottom of the issue. However, they are not known to have taken any specific action.
“Under Armour is deeply concerned by credible reports of forced labor and other abuses in, and outside, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). As the reported and specific circumstances preclude the effective use of third-party audits to assess whether such abuses are occurring, Under Armour is employing measures to mitigate the risk of such abuses occurring in, or being linked to, our supply chain,” the company’s statement read.
However, just releasing a statement cost them a boycott in the Chinese market.
However, because the boycott was organized by Chinese government accounts on Chinese social media, it is not really possible to measure whether this was really effective or just a show to create fear that other companies will not do the same.