Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill this week that aims to bar state and local entities from contracting with companies linked to forced labor camps in China.
State Representative Justin Wilmeth (R-Deer Valley), who introduced House Bill (HB) 2488, said as a student of history he knows what happens when good people stay silent.
“This new law, which was passed with strong bipartisan support, sends a clear message that the State of Arizona won’t do business with anyone that turns a blind eye to this horrible human rights abuse,” he said.
Under HB 2488, public entities cannot enter a contract with a company unless the contract includes a written certificate that the company does not and will not use the forced labor of Uyghurs in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The company also cannot use goods or services provided by forced labor or contract with a different company that does.
The Arizona Sun Times reached out to Wilmeth for more information on the law but did not receive a response before publishing time.
According to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, Uyghurs (or Uighurs) are a Muslim ethnic group that primarily lives in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in the far northwest of the PRC. Since 2017, XUAR authorities began forcing the assimilation of Uyghurs into Han Chinese society by forcefully reducing birthrates, separating families, and enrolling children in state-run boarding schools.
Between 2017 and 2020, XUAR authorities detained upwards of 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic groups in internment camps based on past religious and cultural activities that the government deemed extremist.
“According to some former detainees, treatment and conditions in the centers included factory labor, crowded and unsanitary conditions, food deprivation, psychological pressure, sexual abuse, and medical neglect and torture, sometimes resulting in deaths of detainees while in the camps or soon after their release,” according to the CRS report. “Since 2019, the XUAR government has released some detainees, sent others to factory labor, and kept many in pre-trial detention facilities or prosecuted them as criminals and imprisoned them.”
The XUAR is one of the PRC’s materially rich regions. 80 percent of China’s cotton, China’s largest coal and natural gas reserves, and a fifth of its oil reserves come from the area.
“The PRC government has pressured many Uyghurs, including former detainees, into accepting employment in textile, apparel, agricultural, consumer electronics, and other labor-intensive industries, in Xinjiang and other provinces. Some factories utilizing Uyghur labor are tied to global supply chains. Uyghurs who refuse to accept such employment, which often involves heavy surveillance and political indoctrination, may face detention,” according to the report.
According to Save Uighur, as of 2021, some major brands are allegedly tied to Uyghur forced labor, including giants like Walt Disney, Microsoft, Sony, Gucci, Vans, and BMW.
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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.