Southern Baptists welcome new law to help Uyghurs in China | Baptist life
WASHINGTON (BP) âSouth Baptist advocates for Uyghur Muslims targeted by China’s genocidal campaign hailed the enactment of a US ban on importing products made by forced labor into the communist giant .
President Biden enacted the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Law on Thursday (December 23), just over six months after the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting loudly passed a resolution condemning the oppression of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against the Uyghurs. The resolution also called on the US government to take “concrete action” to end the genocide.
With its June 15 action, the SBC would have become the first Christian denomination to denounce China’s campaign against the Uyghurs as genocide.
The CCP’s efforts against the Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim group in western China, have included not only forced labor but also widespread detention in “re-education” camps and a coercive population control program of abortion and sterilization.
“This is an important step in confronting the Chinese Communist Party with its heinous enslavement of the Uyghur people,” said Brent Leatherwood, acting chairman of the Commission for Ethics and Religious Freedom (ERLC). âI hope that more action to defend human dignity by America and our allies will follow this one.
âFor Southern Baptists, this moment should be seen as a shared victory for the cooperating churches in our convention,â Leatherwood said in comments written for Baptist Press. âSix months ago, we spoke with one voice to condemn the genocide that is being perpetrated against the Uyghurs. This helped spur more conversations, more advocacy, and ultimately the legislation needed to pass this bill. This proves that the voice of the SBC is important when it is focused, timely, and rooted in the scriptures. “
Griffin Gulledge, pastor of Madison Baptist Church (Ga.) And author of the SBC resolution, told BP the new law is a significant step forward “in respecting the inherent dignity of the Uyghur people and ending the genocide perpetrated against him by the Chinese Communist government.
“It is my hope and my prayer that Americans in general, and Christians in particular, take this opportunity to learn about the plight of the Uyghurs,” Gulledge said in written remarks. âIt is essential that we send the message that we will not tolerate or consume the goods and services provided by forced labor, which is just another term for modern day slavery.
âI am grateful to the leaders on both sides of the aisle who used their voice and influence and acted quickly but decisively to end this atrocity. May God bless their efforts, save the Uyghur people and show them the grace of Christ. “
Gulledge drew attention to the CCP’s campaign against Uyghurs with a lengthy Twitter thread in July 2020 that went viral. He went on to submit the resolution for the final SBC meeting. ERLC trustees voted unanimously in September to honor Gulledge with the entity’s annual religious freedom award.
The sponsors of the bill applauded the passage of the bill.
âThis is the most important and impactful action taken so far by the United States to hold the Chinese Communist Party to account for its use of forced labor,â said Senator Marco Rubio, R- Fla. âIt will fundamentally change our relationship with Beijing. This law should also ensure that Americans no longer unwittingly buy products made by slaves in China.
Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Said the law “sends a powerful bipartisan message that the United States will not turn a blind eye.”
Representatives Jim McGovern, D-Mass., And Chris Smith, RN.J., were the primary sponsors in the House of Representatives.
After signing the legislation unceremoniously, Biden said on Twitter, âThe United States will continue to use all tools at its disposal to ensure that supply chains do not resort to forced labor, including from Xinjiang. and other parts of China.
Leatherwood told BP: “Despite all the dead ends, there is always a possibility that good things could happen in Washington, and that is exactly what happened when this bill became law.”
The new law prohibits the introduction into the US market of products made by forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Under the measure, there will be a “rebuttable presumption” that “goods mined, produced or manufactured” in Xinjiang are prohibited from importing into the United States. Exceptions to the ban include if there is “clear and convincing evidence” that an article was not produced “in whole or in part by forced labor”.
The CCP’s oppressive practices in the region include tracking Uyghur Muslims through a high-tech surveillance system that obtained genetic data on many residents, according to reports. It is estimated that over a million of the 12 million Uyghurs, and possibly as many as three million, have been held in “re-education” camps. Forced labor by detainees is common. Life in the camps could lead to indoctrination, as well as rape, torture and coercive organ harvesting. Uyghur women are also at the mercy of forced abortions and sterilizations.
Then-Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced in January, on the last full day of the Trump administration, his determination that China is guilty of genocide in Xinjiang. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed the appointment after taking office under Biden.
According to a 1948 United Nations treaty, genocide is defined as murder and other acts “intended to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”.
Congressional supporters of the import ban faced resistance from the White House and big business before securing passage of the bill. The Biden administration urged Democrats to “essentially water [the bill] down, âaccording to a Dec. 2 column in the Washington Post. Companies like Apple, Coca-Cola and Nike have been pushing for a lower measure because they benefit from the labor situation in Xinjiang, The New York Times reported late last year.
The Senate and House passed different versions of an import ban in July and early December, respectively. Rubio and McGovern said on December 14 that they had agreed to a compromise, and the White House announced the same day that Biden would sign the bill. Also on that date, the House approved it unopposed. The Senate passed the proposal on Dec. 16 by unanimous consent after a parliamentary delay.
After reporting on the administration’s efforts to weaken the bill, Leatherwood of the ERLC wrote to Blinken on December 3 asking him to “do everything in his power” to get the legislation passed. . The ERLC has long opposed China’s oppression of religious freedom and other human rights. Support for the Uyghur law on the prevention of forced labor was part of its public policy agenda this year.
The Biden administration announced on December 6 that it had implemented a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing over “China’s actions on Taiwan, human rights, Hong Kong and the South China Sea “. The Olympics are scheduled to begin on February 4. Australia, Britain and Canada are among the other countries that have announced a diplomatic boycott.
With reporting by Brandon Porter, Associate Vice President for Convention News on the SBC Executive Committee.