Strengthening Efforts to End Uyghur Enslavement

Olivia Enos
Olivia Enos
Senior Fellow
A view of Mile Handmade Wool Carpet Factory on May 28, 2024, in the Uyghur Autonomous Regio, China. (Photo by Zhe Ji/Getty Images)

The month of June marks two years since the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) went into full effect. The groundbreaking law set a precedent for U.S. policy, making clear that countering Uyghur forced labor is a centerpiece of broader U.S. efforts to support the Uyghur people and combat the CCP’s ongoing abuses.

Two years on, there is enough data to analyze the trends – both the opportunities and challenges – and determine what steps should be taken to strengthen U.S. and global efforts to ultimately end Uyghur enslavement.

The landmark legislation created a rebuttable presumption that essentially bans all goods presumed to be produced with Uyghur forced labor from entering U.S. markets. As of June 2024, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has investigated nearly $3.5 billion worth of goods and denied entry to $700 million in goods found to be in violation of the UFLPA since its implementation. There law has substantially helped ordinary Americans to not unwittingly aid and abet in the CCP’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uyghur people. These efforts, however, still need strengthening.

There are many things the U.S. and countries around the globe can do to improve outcomes and better assist Uyghurs. Here are three next steps the U.S. can take now to more effectively combat the CCP’s exploitation of Uyghurs:

1. Fine repeat offenders of UFLPA for importing goods produced with Uyghur forced labor. Fines would up the ante on negligent importers. Under U.S.C. 1592, CBP already has the authority to fine importers for fraud, gross negligence, and negligence. There is also precedent for issuing civil penalties to companies that use forced labor. Repeat offenders of UFLPA are particularly ripe for facing penalties.

2. Create a fund for Uyghur survivors of the CCP’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity. The government should place fines collected from repeat violators of the UFLPA into a fund administered by Treasury or State payable to Uyghur survivors of ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity. These funds could support the important work of organizations providing direct support to Uyghur survivors of forced labor and other injustices, including various forms of technical assistance, counseling and rehabilitation services, advocacy funding and support, among other potential worthy causes.

3. Prohibit imports produced with Uyghur forced labor from being reexported. When CBP detains a good, it uses authorities under 19 U.S.C. 1499. Once a shipment is detained, importers have a range of options for what they can do with it, including reexportation, even if CBP believes the good was produced with forced labor. Those importers should not have the option to reexport such a shipment until it is established through a clear and convincing evidentiary standard that it was not produced with forced labor.

The U.S. cannot go at this alone. Partnership from likeminded friends and allies around the globe to ensure that goods produced with Uyghur forced labor are not finding alternate homes in their markets is crucial. Furthermore, countries around the globe need to implement UFLPA-like laws in their own contexts and give substantially greater attention to the Uyghur cause generally.

Two years is enough time for lessons to be learned and to begin implementation of complementary efforts that strengthen UFLPA implementation. These are but three things the U.S. government can do, but the Uyghur people need our very best to ensure an end to their exploitation.

Read in Forbes.