Members of Coalition to End Uyghur Forced Labour Testify Before Congress

House Ways & Means Trade Subcommittee holds hearing on imports from the Xinjiang Region

Washington, D.C.— Today, three members of the 280+ groups that make up the Coalition to End Uyghur Forced Labour testified before the House Ways & Means Committee. The Campaign for Uyghurs, the Worker Rights Consortium, and the AFL-CIO are part of a coalition calling on apparel brands to divest from the Xinjiang Region of China. 

Over 1 million Uyghur and other Turkic peoples have been rounded up into labor camps where they’ve been subjected to sterilization, violence, and forced to denounce their religion and culture. 20% of the world’s cotton comes from the region, meaning 1 in 5 cotton garments are tainted by forced labor.

“It saddens me to see that the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] is getting ‘rewarded’ for genocide while my sister and millions of other Uyghurs are the human collateral of international trade deals and economic benefits. It horrifies me, to see China continue to be allowed to become a power able to strong-arm the world. What do you think is going to happen if this remains unchecked?,” said Rushan Abbas, Executive Director of Campaign for Uyghurs in her oral testimony.

In her testimony, Cathy Feingold, International Director of the American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations, wrote, “For years, corporations shifted production to China to take advantage of low labor costs, the lack of independent unions, harassment and imprisonment of worker rights activists and an overall repressive human rights environment. Now, the sourcing decisions of brands and their suppliers continue to take advantage from this exploitation…[This cannot] simply be another flash in the news cycle of turbulent bilateral US-China relations and have no impact on what many consider the greatest human rights violation of our time…The United States must lead globally to end forced labor and the systematic repression of the Uyghur and Turkic and Muslim-majority peoples of China.”

“Given the vast volume of apparel affected, and the breadth and severity of the forced labor crisis in the Uyghur Region, major brands and retailers face enormous risk that they are importing garments into the US in violation of the Tariff Act’s prohibition on forced labor-made goods. The only means by which these corporations can ensure that they are not importing goods made with forced labor into the US and other consumer markets is to leave the Uyghur Region,” said Scott Nova, Executive Director of the Worker Rights Consortium.

Read their full testimonies here. Watch live hearing here.

About the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region: 

The Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region is a coalition of civil society organisations and trade unions united to end state-sponsored forced labour and other egregious human rights abuses against people from the Uyghur Region in China, known to local people as East Turkistan. The coalition is calling on leading brands and retailers to ensure that they are not supporting or benefiting from the pervasive and extensive forced labour of the Uyghur population and other Turkic and Muslim-majority peoples, perpetrated by the Chinese government.

Right now, there is near certainty that any brand sourcing apparel, textiles, yarn or cotton from the Uyghur Region is profiting from human rights violations, including forced labour, both in the Uyghur Region and more broadly throughout China.  We are asking brands and retailers to exit the Uyghur Region at every level of their supply chain, from cotton to finished products, to prevent the use of forced labour of Uyghurs and other groups in other facilities, and to end relationships with suppliers supporting the forced labour system. Brands and retailers must take each of these steps in order to fulfil their corporate responsibility obligations to respect human rights as defined in international principles such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.