Arizona takes bipartisan stand against forced labor in China

Proposed legislation would require Arizona governments to ensure contracts include written certification that contractor won’t use or rely on forced Uyghur labor.

Updated: January 26, 2022 - 8:31am

State Representative Justin Wilmeth (R-Phoenix) introduced a bill into the Arizona House of Representatives (HB 2488) with the hope of combatting the use of forced Uyghur labor in China.

The bill would require that the Arizona government and other public entities in the state cannot enter a contract with a company for products or services unless the contract includes a written certification that the company does not and will not use or rely on forced Uyghur labor in the People's Republic of China. Wilmeth's bill has nine cosponsors: seven Republicans and two Democrats.

"As a student of history, I know what happens when good people remain silent," Wilmeth said in a release. "The Chinese Communist Party keeping millions of people locked in internment camps, which harkens back to the darkest chapters of the 20th century. HB 2488 sends a strong message that the State of Arizona won't do business with anyone that turns a blind eye to this horrible human rights abuse."

Wilmeth's bill comes amid what outside observers have categorized as an ongoing Uyghur genocide in China's Xinjiang province. Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group that primarily live in China's Xinjiang province. They are an ethnic minority in China, a country that is predominantly Han Chinese. Uyghurs are predominantly Muslim. The Xinjiang region, where they mostly reside, is the northwest most province in China.

The Chinese government has reportedly undergone efforts to reduce the Uyghur population, including forced birth control, IUDs, and abortions. It has more than one million Uyghurs in concentration camps. The Chinese government claims that the camps are for vocational training. However, outside observers note that they are re-education camps that also serve as forced labor camps — particularly when it comes to picking cotton.

Additionally, in March 2020, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute reported that more than 80,000 Uyghurs had been transferred out of the region from 2017 to 2019 to work in factories across China. The ASPI alleges that at least 82 well-known global brands have forced Uyghur labor in their supply chains, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony, and Volkswagen.