The Morning Dispatch: How the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Became Law

Happy Monday! Running for office the first time, Donald Trump mocked John Kerry mercilessly on the campaign trail after the secretary of state broke his leg in a biking accident. But after Joe Biden fell off his bike this weekend, Trump simply expressed hope that his successor was okay. The weight of the presidency changes a man.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Saturday formally endorsed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for young children, meaning kids 6 months through 5 years of age are eligible for vaccination beginning this week.

  • French President Emmanuel Macron’s political party, La République En Marche!, was dealt a blow in parliamentary elections over the weekend, with early projections showing that while it will maintain a plurality, the party lost the outright majority it secured in 2017. En Marche! is expected to win between 210 and 230 of the National Assembly’s 577 seats, while Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s left-wing coalition is expected to win between 165 and 185 seats and Marine Le Pen’s right-wing National Rally is expected to win between 87 and 102 seats. Macron was reelected in April with nearly 60 percent of the vote, but Sunday’s results indicated a deep dissatisfaction with the direction of the country and will make it difficult for Macron to enact his agenda.

  • Senator Gustavo Petro—the left-wing senator, former mayor of Bogotá, and onetime guerrilla fighter—was elected president of Colombia on Sunday with just over 50 percent of the vote, eking out a narrow win over businessman Rodolfo Hernández. 

  • United Kingdom Home Secretary Priti Patel approved a request from the United States on Friday to extradite Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, so he can stand trial on espionage charges. Assange and his legal team announced they will appeal the decision, claiming the United States is trying to “disappear him into the darkest recesses of their prison system” to “deter others from holding governments to account.” 

  • The FBI announced on Friday it is investigating a series of attacks and threats in recent weeks targeting pro-life pregnancy resource centers and faith-based organizations across the country, which have ramped up in frequency after the draft Dobbs Supreme Court opinion was leaked. 

  • The International Swimming Federation (FINA) announced Sunday its members voted overwhelmingly in favor of adopting a new “gender inclusion policy” that prohibits transgender women who transitioned after the age of 12 from competing in women’s FINA events, which are often prerequisites for Olympic qualification.

  • A Gallup poll conducted last month and published Friday found 81 percent of Americans reported believing in God, a 6-percentage-point fall from 2017 and the lowest number recorded in the survey’s 78 years of asking the question.

  • British golfer Matt Fitzpatrick won the 2022 U.S. Open on Sunday, narrowly beating out Americans Will Zalatoris and Scottie Scheffler.

How the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Became Law

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today, The Dispatch is publishing the first of five installments of a piece from Uphill’s Haley Byrd Wilt—an in-depth oral history of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which was signed into law just before Christmas and goes into effect this week. When we launched The Dispatch in October 2019, we wanted to provide a home for exactly this kind of journalism: well-reported, thorough, exhaustive, sober, important. The story—based on more than 21 hours of interviews with more than two dozen people involved in the creation and passage of the legislation—took Haley months to report. She’s been reporting on the plight of the Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province for years, and her passion for their human rights is what powered a work of this magnitude to completion. We hope you’ll take the time to follow along today, and throughout this week. Additional installments will be published over the course of this week, and we will release an audio version in the coming days. Dispatch members can also download a PDF version of the full report here. Your membership allows us to do this kind of high-quality, in-depth journalism rather than chase clicks or attempt to monetize the latest outrage. Thank you.

(Illustration by Holly Stapleton)

The Chinese government is systematically and brutally trying to erase an ethnic minority. 

What happens when genocide is carried out by a country with colossal might on the global stage? We’ve witnessed the answer: Apathy from the business community and lethargy from policy makers. Despite designating the atrocities in Xinjiang a genocide in early 2021, the United States has not done enough to respond. And where America has taken significant action, it has come only after years of pitched lobbying between major corporations and human rights advocates.

This is the story of how the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act became law, marking the United States’ most consequential response to the genocide in Xinjiang to date. To see it advance, the bill’s sponsors had to battle business interests, overcome partisan tensions, grapple with the Biden administration’s climate priorities, and maintain public pressure on officials who were reluctant to get it done.

This account follows the 21 months from the forced labor bill’s introduction in March 2020 to final passage in December 2021. It is based on more than 21 hours of interviews with over two dozen people involved, including staff who shaped the legislation, lawmakers who sponsored it, and outside advocates who helped get it over the finish line.

You probably own something made with Uyghur forced labor.

Xinjiang has a massive role in the global economy, particularly in textiles. Xinjiang produces 85 percent of Chinese cotton and one fifth of the world’s cotton supply. The region’s energy industry is also large. Estimates indicate nearly half of the globe’s polysilicon, a material required for manufacturing solar cells, came from Xinjiang in 2020.

Given the complexity of global supply chains, products with components sourced from the region are difficult to avoid, even when consumers are being careful about their purchases. A mass-produced electronic device might have one small component from Xinjiang, or a company might buy cotton from the region before workers sew articles of clothing in a different country.

In 2018 and 2019, reporting from journalists and researchers began to reveal the sprawling scope of the Chinese government’s use of forced labor in Xinjiang, touching some of the largest brands in the world. Not only is the Chinese government forcing masses of unjustly detained people to work in factories connected to its concentration camps, it is also sending Uyghurs to work in agricultural fields and factories in other parts of China. Research and news reporting have implicated companies such as Nike, Kraft Heinz, Adidas, Calvin Klein, Coca-Cola, Costco, Patagonia, and Tommy Hilfiger.

So a small, but determined, group of lawmakers began the long and arduous process of passing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, with the legislation ultimately winning broad support across the political spectrum.

But it wasn’t clear at the beginning, or even close to the end, that it would actually become law. Jonathan Stivers, who served as Congressional-Executive Commission on China staff director when the bill was introduced, was skeptical of its chances to begin with. “I had no idea how far it was going to go,” he says. “I thought there was no way Congress was going to pass this. All the entrenched interests are going to come out in opposition to this.”

Stivers recalls some anxiety when Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern, alongside then-CECC Co-Chair Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, introduced the plan in early March 2020.

“Here’s something, and something significant,” Stivers says. “This isn’t just a new office in the State Department or a report. This is an import ban, more or less. This is a big deal.”

“We were nervous because we didn’t know what the response would be.”

The law won’t solve the problem of forced labor in China, and it hasn’t ended the genocide.

But it presents a meaningful tool for the United States to respond and to pressure the Chinese government to end its brutal human rights abuses. It also means companies will have to more closely examine their supply chains. American consumers may soon have more peace of mind that they aren’t buying items made by people like Gulzira Auelkhan, a survivor of China’s genocide, in circumstances of extreme suffering and oppression. Advocates hope the rest of the world will learn from the process of passing the American law and quickly follow suit.

Southern Baptist Convention Approves Reforms

Outside the Southern Baptist Convention’s national meeting last week in Anaheim, California, abuse survivors and advocates handed out teal ribbons to the representatives walking past—symbols of support for abuse survivors. Inside, those representatives voted for reform and reform-minded leaders at every opportunity.

The SBC is a network of more than 47,000 churches in the U.S. with about 13.7 million congregants and several seminaries, mission boards, and publishing arms. Last month, investigative firm Guidepost Solutions released a nearly 288-page report into how members of the SBC’s Executive Committee—its central managing body—for years mistreated abuse survivors, opposed reforms, and lied about what steps it could take to prevent abuse, instead prioritizing avoiding legal liability.

After a 2019 Houston Chronicle investigation found more than 400 SBC-affiliated leaders had been credibly accused of abuse since 2000, the denomination eventually commissioned the Guidepost report and established a task force to recommend reforms. After the report’s release, the SBC’s North American Mission Board—which had employed a man implicated in the report until he resigned the week before its release—announced it would hire Guidepost for an investigation into its policies.

Last week, SBC messengers approved all the task force’s initial recommendations. They voted to establish an independently managed database of credibly accused pastors, employees, and volunteers for congregations to check before hiring—a move survivor Christa Brown first proposed more than a decade ago. Leaders had said a database couldn’t be established within SBC rules despite keeping a private list of accused abusers. Messengers passed a resolution apologizing by name to 10 of the survivors named in the report and “repent[ing] of our resistance and neglect of their efforts” to call attention to abuse, and another resolution calling for states to treat as crimes pastors’ sexual misconduct with people in their care.

Also approved at last week’s meeting: training for leaders and volunteers, improved management of abuse reports, and a task force to study and recommend implementation steps for Guidepost’s other suggestions including a memorial to survivors outside the denomination’s Tennessee headquarters. SBC charity Send Relief volunteered $4 million to fund this year’s changes, $1 million of it for survivor care and trauma training for pastors.

On Tuesday, sex abuse reform advocate and Texas pastor Bart Barber won the SBC presidency. Barber was a trustee at the SBC’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2018 when it fired influential president Paige Patterson after accounts surfaced of his mishandling rape reports.

“Sexual predators have used our decentralized polity to try to turn our churches into a hunting ground,” Barber said at a press conference, referencing the SBC’s policy of church autonomy that leaders had used to stymie centralized reform efforts and communication between churches about best practices. “And yet, our decentralized polity can become, rather than a hunting ground in which predators brutalize their prey, a place where sexual predators are put on notice that the tables have turned and where the hunter is now the hunted.”

Barber won the denomination’s presidency after a runoff with Tom Ascol, a Florida pastor backed by the Conservative Baptist Network—an SBC faction whose members are concerned about what they see as liberal drift and the influence of Critical Race Theory within the denomination. Its website touts the SBC as “one of few remaining roadblocks keeping liberalism from overtaking the United States,” and the group hosted right-wing commentator and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk to speak at a breakfast at the Anaheim conference. Patterson also attended the breakfast, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Some messengers did speak up against the reforms on the floor of the convention, casting the number of abuse reports uncovered as small compared to the denomination’s overall size or criticizing the denomination’s trust in Guidepost because it had tweeted in support of LGBT people. But when the task force reform recommendations came up for a vote, an overwhelming majority of messengers lifted their yellow ballots in support, passing the measures as survivors embraced and wept.

But survivors also cautioned that these reforms are only the first step, and they had asked for more. A statement posted by survivor Jules Woodson and signed by several prominent survivors and advocates asked the denomination to immediately establish the suggested survivor memorial and create a permanent independent commission for receiving clergy sex abuse reports and commissioning investigations—the denomination instead approved a new task force for one year, to be renewed annually.

Brown, frustrated that the denomination has still done the “bare minimum,” called for a law enforcement investigation. “I know people like happy endings, but I’m not feeling it,” Brown wrote. “It’s better than nothing but that’s such a low bar. And if this is all that’s done even when such massive media is mustered, that saddens me.”

Others—while emphasizing that the denomination still needs to follow through on the reforms it has voted for—struck a more hopeful tone. “There is still much work to be done, but I’m encouraged,” Woodson wrote. “As I leave Anaheim today, I’m holding my head high and with renewed hope.”

Worth Your Time

  • As we observe Juneteenth today, take a few minutes to read former Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James on the significance of the holiday. “Some [are wondering if Juneteenth is] just some new ‘woke’ holiday invented by Marxist academics, the creators of the historically inaccurate 1619 Project, or some other group on the left. It is not,” she wrote last year, when Congress voted on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis to annually commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. “Juneteenth has been celebrated since 1866, mostly by Black Americans; yet it’s a day that’s worthy of celebration by every American, as it represents a critical turning point in American history, not just Black history. It is the day that we as a people finally began to live up to one of the greatest principles we professed: a nation devoted to liberty for all. … My family celebrates Juneteenth because we celebrate America. We celebrate the fact that even though [James’ enslaved ancestor] Agnes suffered in bondage, America is the kind of nation that ultimately makes things right. We fought a war, we lost lives, we passed constitutional amendments, we changed systems, and we even achieved the hardest victory of all: We changed hearts.”

  • In his latest essay, Reihan Salam—president of the Manhattan Institute—argues that conservatives and Republicans should ditch what he calls immigration restrictionism in favor of immigration selectivism. “The term restrictionism conflates two distinct ideas: that our country should take in fewer immigrants, and that Americans, and Americans alone, have the right to choose whom to admit to the United States,” he writes. “If the former is polarizing, the latter commands broad public support, which helps explain why Americans have traditionally drawn a sharp distinction between legal and illegal immigration, perceiving the latter as a violation of the rules the country has established for selecting newcomers. … The big question, in other words, is not ‘How many immigrants?’ but ‘Who decides, and on what grounds?’ The key is to focus on what I call selectionism, or the unambiguous defense of the American people’s right to choose whom to admit and whom to exclude, and to do so on the basis of promoting the national interest. By abandoning restrictionism for selectionism, ambitious Republicans could not only assuage the concerns of their base while promoting the interests of the country—they could also, potentially, chart a path out of the current immigration deadlock that would appeal to a broad, multiracial majority of Americans.”

  • Paul McCartney turned 80 over the weekend, leading National Review’s Kyle Smith to reflect on one of the Beatle’s less celebrated talents: his bass playing. “If it hadn’t been for the accident of the Beatles’ original bass player Stu Sutcliffe departing the group in 1962, McCartney would have happily continued as a rhythm-guitar player,” Smith notes. “Instead, he took a guitarist’s creative instincts and applied them to the bass. Again and again, McCartney’s bass-playing in key songs takes the recording to an unworldly level. And although he was strong from the beginning—check out his work on ‘Paperback Writer,’ which makes the song a bit better without asserting itself much—he got even more skilled as he went along. … McCartney never did learn to read music, relying on his instincts for his playing, and his bass work sometimes gives off the sense of a born improviser who’s just out to have fun without worrying too much about sticking to the plan. It’s starting to look like he may never lose that youthful unruliness—like he may never grow up.”

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Also Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • In Friday’s Uphill (🔒), Haley dove into a bipartisan veteran health care bill passed by the Senate and provides an update on gun violence negotiations in the wake of Buffalo and Uvalde. The primary sticking point? “Barring unmarried romantic partners found guilty of domestic violence from owning weapons,” she writes.

  • On the site over the weekend, Peter Meilaender reviewed Yascha Mounk’s new book on sustaining democracies, and Guy Denton reported from a three-day convention for fans of the rock band Kiss in Nashville, Tennessee. “Despite its occasional disappointments,” Guy writes, “the event has ultimately delivered what Kiss’ music always provided: an excuse to inhabit a fantasy world where the only rule is to rock and roll all night and party every day.”

  • Mike Pence’s stand on January 6 offers a model of what Christian public engagement should look like, David argues in Sunday’s French Press. “When Pence became the focal point of the mob’s rage, it crystalized a religious conflict between two competing visions of religion in politics,” he writes. “Mike Pence stood firm against a corrupt president. … In those moments he demonstrated the difference between the lust for power and the quest for justice.”

Let Us Know

Does the knowledge that many prominent American companies have been doing business in China’s Xinjiang region affect your willingness to buy their products? Between the ban on most imports from Xinjiang and stringent sanctions on Russia, do you think we have passed peak globalization?

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