During an interview on EpochTV’s “Crossroads” program, Nadine Maenza, chair of the federal government commission said that in order to effectively prevent big companies from using slave labor in China to manufacture their products, people should be willing to pay more for these goods.
If these companies are unable to continue with slave labor in Xinjiang, China “with using Turkic Muslims and others to produce their products for free, it’s gonna cost more to get a pair of Nikes,” Maenza said.
These companies need to reset the way they do business in order to become competitive again; otherwise, they will have a harder time competing with other manufacturers, said the chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“[Then] China wouldn’t have the opportunity they have right now to take advantage of our markets by flooding them with cheap labor because they’ve been produced by slaves,” Maenza pointed out.
“We look back and we blame this other generation for allowing slavery to happen in the United States. And then here we are, allowing it to happen, because we want to save a couple of bucks on a pair of shoes, or on a bag, or on gym clothes.”
“The easiest way to re-shift this would be to have the American people say ‘no more,’ and it would actually benefit financially companies to end their engagement in slave labor.”
If people stopped buying products made with slave labor all companies would want to have that “checkmark, saying that they’re clear of all slave labor on other goods, because they know that means they will make more money,” Maenza said.
“I think most Americans have absolutely no idea that they might have items in their house that were produced by slave labor. And if they did, they’d make different choices in their purchasing.”
Therefore, it is important that news media cover the truth of what’s happening with all eyes on China, the chairwoman continued, adding that she hopes there’ll be more articles, news stories, and more opportunities to call out all of those companies that use slave labor in China.
“We should be supporting companies that do not engage in these types of practices.”
In December, a law went into effect that bars importing to the United States goods produced using forced labor of Uyghurs, or certain ethnic minorities, or members of other persecuted groups in Xinjiang.
“This is a way that we can say to U.S. companies: you can’t use slave labor to produce products to be sold in the United States. That goes against our values, against any sort of standard of human rights.”
This bipartisan bill, also known as the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, makes a rebuttable presumption (a legal assumption with no evidence to the contrary) that every product made in Xinjiang is made using used forced labor, Maenza said.
However, if a manufacturer deals with a company there that does not use forced labor, that company can be certified by the American government and then the goods produced can be sold in the United States, she added.
Maenza said that this legislation was perceived as “a huge threat” by a lot of big corporations including Nike so they fought it.
Nike denied in a statement that it “lobbied against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act or any other proposed forced labor legislation.”
“While Nike does not directly source cotton or other raw materials, traceability at the raw materials level is an area of ongoing focus. We are working closely with our suppliers, industry associations, brands, and other stakeholders to pilot traceability approaches and map material sources so we can have confidence the materials in our products are responsibly produced,” the statement said.
The Forced Labor Prevention Act covers just a small portion of abuses taking place in China, Maenza said, and while it “may not stop all force labor products, it is now making it clear that this is what China does” and this fact can no longer be denied.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce actually opposed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, the chairwoman noted.
Businesses, regardless of whether they are big, small, or medium, are connected in many ways to China, or have some part of their supply chain coming from China, or there are jobs connected to these businesses’ relationship with China, Maenza said.
Therefore, businesses are really reluctant to sever their ties with China, she added.
Maenza and three members of the Commission that she chairs were sanctioned by the communist regime of China in December.
She believes that the sanctions were imposed on them for calling out the state-led oppression of Uyghurs, Tibetans, Christians, Falun Gong, and for condemning the violations of their rights and the crimes against them. The other reason could be that she and other Commissioners have made some pretty tough recommendations to the U.S. government that were followed, Maenza explained.
The Commission has been reporting on religious freedom in China since its inception in 1998 but its calling out the religious freedom violations in China has not garnered much attention that is, until the last 4 or 5 years when these crimes ramped up to a huge proportion, Maenza said.
“It got to the point that the international community couldn’t look away.”