AAFA and Others Petition Against Forced-Labor Bill
After the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act on Sept. 22, the American Apparel and Footwear Association and other major apparel trade groups made a joint statement urging Congress to take a different path in its efforts to protect the human rights of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China’s Xinjiang region. The bill passed in a 406–3 vote and is on its way to the U.S. Senate.
The apparel-industry statement was also signed by the National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders Association and United States Fashion Industry Association. The statement condemned forced labor and noted that it shares the goals of the legislation. But the trade groups said that the bill would not accomplish its goals.
“The legislation would establish a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ blanket standard, directly contradicting U.S. jurisprudence and due process, branding anything and everything associated with [Xinjiang] as made with forced labor. Such an approach would do further harm to human rights, economic development and legitimate supply chains and will jeopardize the livelihoods of millions of workers worldwide without specifically addressing human-rights concerns,” the statement noted.
The statement requested that the U.S. government work more closely with industry groups, unions and foreign governments to find a solution.
The bill was applauded by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a U.S government group established by Congress to monitor threats to religious freedom overseas.
The commission noted that dozens of U.S. and overseas companies are suspected of working with suppliers that use forced labor from Xinjiang, where the Chinese Communist government has established a gulag of internment camps in which hundreds of thousands of Muslim Uyghurs are imprisoned.