Congressman calls out China at International Religious Freedom Summit, says Uyghurs need more protection
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The International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit kicked off Tuesday in Washington, D.C., with a leading breakout session on the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA).

The bipartisan law presumes all goods produced in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China are made with forced labor unless proven otherwise.

An estimated 100,000 Uyghurs and other ethnic minority ex-detainees in China may be working in conditions of forced labor following detention in re-education camps, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., a longtime advocate for human rights, says there are gaps in UFLPA that need to be filled.

The law allows shipments under $800 to avoid the need for any proof, allowing some companies to avoid the regulation by importing goods in small shipments.

“Who’s opening up the packages to see if these crates are $800 or less? They don’t get inspected. So, that is a very serious flaw that we have to correct,” Smith said.

She has witnessed firsthand the suppression of the Chinese government after her sister, Gulshan Abbas, was jailed six days after Rushan made her first public speech addressing Uyghur human rights violations. 

rushan abbas

Rushan Abbas at the International Religious Freedom Summit 2024, left, and Abbas on Capitol Hill advocating for her sister who is in jail in China. (Rushan Abbas)

“[She is] in jail today because I exercised my freedom of speech. … I am an American citizen. As an American citizen, [it] is my First Amendment right.”

Abbas says each year attending the International Religious Freedom Summit is important to her to share her story.

“If we don’t hold the Chinese Communist government accountable today, it will be … democratic countries who are taking the consequences of an illiberal world where China is intimidating everybody who speaks out, everybody who defends human rights. … This is about the future of the free world,” said Abbas.

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