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Rubio Co-Chairs CECC Hearing Highlighting Chinese Government Atrocities in Xinjiang
Rubio: “China’s efforts to silence Uyghurs and turn the world’s attention away from the ongoing atrocities in Xinjiang have included the coercion and intimidation of American citizens and residents”
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Co-Chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), convened a hearing to evaluate the on-going forced labor, mass internment, and social control in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
Earlier this year, Senator Rubio’s bipartisan bill, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 (S.178) unanimously passed the Senate and is awaiting final passage in the House of Representatives. The bill is in response to the deteriorating human rights sitauation in China’s XUAR, as well as China’s intimidation and threats against U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (LPRs) on American soil.
Video of the hearing can be found here. A transcript of Senator Rubio’s opening remarks as prepared can be found here.
Key excerpts of the hearing are highlighted below:
Rubio: Mr. Turkel let me ask you this. It’s clear from your testimony that the horrific situation that Uyghurs are facing — they’re facing it no matter where they live. As their relatives at home and in the Uyghur region are either swept into camps or live in an atmosphere of constant and pervasive fear. As a Uyghur-American yourself, if you feel comfortable speaking about this, can you tell us how this affected your family personally?
Mr. Turkel: Thank you. Before I answer your question I would like to ask the Chairman for permission to enter these two reports into the record. First of all, Senator Rubio, I would like to thank you for early on writing a letter to our Ambassador, Ambassador Max Baucus, to ask for his help to help assist my parents.
Two things that I thought that I was over with when I specially arrived to the United States and became a U.S. Citizen: 1. I would never talk about my past history of being born in a reeducation camp. After 40 some years later we are talking about a similar circumstance. And then 2: I thought that after becoming a U.S. Citizen and licensed to practice in the United States, I should be able to speak my mind. That is not happening to the full extent. The last time I saw my mother was when she was here in 2004 for my law school graduation. With all of the efforts, including Mr. Posner here, we have not made any progress. My father is 80 years old, mom is 68. I don’t think that I will ever see them again, unless the Chinese government allows them to spend the rest of their lives here with their three American grandchildren. It’s been difficult. It would be disingenuous for me to say that I have a normal life. I don’t. I would love to go back to my life two years ago, even though it was sort of weird, strange, difficult life, but at least I was able to check up with my family members to say hello and congratulate them on significant dates. Because of this software that the Chinse government forced Uyghurs to install on their phones, the Uyghurs have been disconnected. Even testifying at this hearing may cost the lives of my parents, but you know, it’s the right thing to do. I have to speak out. This helps me to overcome the sense of anxiety, sense of guilt, sense of desperation, despair, because speaking for the voiceless people is very empowering.
Rubio: I think that anyone who hears your testimony should be troubled. You’re a United States Citizen, your children are United States Citizens, and your family is being directly impacted by the policy decisions, the coercion, the repression of a foreign entity, and it’s applying to you even here in the United States. And when people ask about this issue, it’s about first off–it’s not just about what’s happening– it’s terrible what is happening over there. It’s impacting people that live here on a regular and daily basis, and it’s not just limited, by the way, to people with your background from that region, or who have family there, or who were born there.
As we saw last week, the NBA has learned that you really can’t ignore politics in China if you are doing business with or in China, because your business partner is the Chinese Communist Party. In the case of the NBA, their partner is the Ministry of Education. In the case of these corporations, and I think this is for the whole panel, the entity in China in charge of joint ventures and foreign companies doing business, is the exact same entity that is in charge of standing up these factories and these different operations in this region. If all of you could elaborate, if somebody is listening now, a corporate CEO, members of the board, even prominent shareholders who think that they can somehow make money in China, do business with China, but somehow avoid the political implications and/or witting or unwitting complicity in what’s happening I want to give the panel an opportunity to explain to them why that cannot be the case, and why that will get harder and harder, both from a realistic perspective, I think Mr. Turkel in your testimony you talked about how due diligence is impossible in this region, but even broader — that there’s no way to escape this. If you’re sourcing from there, if you’re doing business from there, particularly in the Xinjiang region, you are engaged in not just witting or unwitting complicity in these crimes, but you’re engaged in politics, whether you like it or not, and you’re now forced to make this decision between billions of dollars of revenue and speaking out and losing it.
Mr. Zenz : I would say something right away. I would like to support your point, Mr. Rubio, with one further important aspect you would have found in my written testimony. The linkages between Xinjiang and Eastern China are growing stronger by the day. So even if a company is doing business with an Eastern Chinese corporation in China or outside of China, because of the mutual pairing assistance key by which 19 cities and provinces, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, and others. The biggest ones, the biggest business players, are mutually linked with mostly Uyghur minority regions in Xinjiang-especially southern Xinjiang-and by design and default they are investing billions in the development of Xinjiang’s minority regions. Now this development, especially in the past years, has been predominantly to support the very business models that I’ve testified about. The three flaws of labor. I have hard evidence that mutual pairing assisted money have directly funded internment camp labor by constructing factories on the grounds of internment camps or right next to them expressly designed by government documents to employ internment camp workers. And these linkages mean that China’s entire domestic supply chain is becoming tainted. And the implications of that heavily underscore the point that you have made. That doing business with China is not only a problem because the CCP in Beijing dictates what you can say publicly or not say about anything that they care about, but also because even doing business in Eastern China is now increasingly impossible without in some way participating or supporting the repression in Xinjiang.
Rubio: If I can paraphrase, what you’re basically saying is that there isn’t a single American today that has not either worn clothes or used a tech device that is not either funded or has been directly created by forced labor in China.
Mr. Zenz: This is the trend, because as we speak it’s Beijing’s policy to turn Xinjiang into the cheap manufacturing hub of the Belt and Road. Xinjiang is already the center of the Belt and Road. And this pertains to textiles, also to electronics assembly, pertains to food products, all types of products. This is a long term strategy and this is increasing. Xinjiang’s share in the manufacturing of cheap goods, as we have heard, because of rising labor costs in the east is only going to increase. It’s a long-term government policy.
Mr. Posner: Senator Rubio, just to add one other dimension which I mentioned briefly in my testimony. There are a number of companies now that have been put on this entity list. 28 companies and government institutions. A number of them are private companies that have gotten U.S. investment dollars, and it seems to me one place to start is to look at, I mean, there’s one company called Megvii, another called SenseTime we know that not only are private investment firms, let’s say in California, venture firms investing, but so are public pensions funds. In fact, the majority of dollars are coming from public pension from state university funds. So this is really, I think one of the ways we start to look at this is to say, not only who’s doing business, who’s manufacturing, but who’s investing. Here, we are talking about firms that are involved in surveillance technology, facial recognition in Xinjiang, they are being supported financially by U.S. based investors who say, you know, that’s not my, I’m not focused on that. We need to focus every American business that’s connected to that needs to be put on notice that this is now their responsibility as well.
Rubio: One final question in regards to all of this — and I’m not claiming this is what’s going to happen — I think I know the answer you’re going to give me, but I think it’s important to have it on the record. How disastrous would it be if we wake up one day six months from now to news that there’s some sort of trade deal and as part of this broader economic arrangement we have agreed, in exchange for them [China] buying more stuff from us, to stop doing anything about this, to stop talking about this, to remove companies from an Entity List? In essence, I get asked this all the time: should this be related to the trade talks? My answer has always been you don’t want it related to the trade talks because you don’t want this to be something that can be bargained away in exchange for more agricultural product purchases, or what have you. But how disastrous — demoralizing — would it be on the global stage, not to mention the character of our nation, if somehow this became one of the items to be negotiated. And I’m not claiming that it is, but I’m certainly trying to be ahead of the curve on this.
Mr. Posner: Well I very much agree with your answer. Ultimately, this is a very important relationship, U.S. and China. We’ve got security concerns, we’ve got economic concerns. We have to make sure that the human rights concerns are not subsumed by those other interests. We have to be principled, we have to stand for our values, and these issues have got to be dealt with on their own terms and we can’t compromise them for other interests.
Ms. Lehr: Just to quickly add to that, I also think U.S. leadership is so important because if we back off, especially in the technology side where we know these technologies are being exported to other countries and so when you just think about the world we want to live in and the role of democracy, it’s just incredibly important. And so maintaining a focus on human rights regardless of what happens with trade is vital.
Rubio: Just a final point I’d like to make, as my time is up, although the clock keeps jumping around here somehow. I don’t know, it’s magical. It’s a home field advantage, I think.
The point I want to make, and just in the broader sense, the morality of this is clear. I think our national security and national interest on being outspoken and active on this is clear. But I would just add, just if you purely analyze this from a trade and economic perspective, how can you fairly compete — you’re talking about outsourcing— how can you fairly compete with a nation who produces basically free labor, compelled free labor, competing with your workers and your industries? So it’s wrong morally, it’s outrageous. But it’s also, I think, the ultimate sort of violation of any sort of trade agreement you can possibly have that would be fair and balanced between two countries. So anyways, the more you learn about this the more outrageous it is. It really is. But thank you all for being here.