On Friday, January 12, it was announced that United Kingdom organizations and companies whose standards of production do not meet their obligations under the Modern Slavery Act would be imposed heavy fines. This decision was made in efforts to encourage and incentivize British companies to cut ties with Chinese partner companies involved in Uyghur forced labor in Xinjiang, and to eliminate all traces of coerced labor in UK products. It has been well-known throughout the past year that Uyghur forced labor can be found in some of the most renowned international conglomerates, especially those involved in clothing and vehicle production: Adidas, BMW, Calvin Klein, General Motors, among 83 other companies. While a welcome step in the right direction, many have speculated that more needs to be done to ensure that UK companies no longer collaborate with Chinese businesses forcibly employing Uyghur individuals:
“Reporting requirements are not enough to hold companies accountable – we need business and government to be held liable for rights abuses in their supply chains and victims should be able to seek redress.” – Joanna Ewart-James, Executive Director, Freedom United
Now, in another move to hold China accountable for human rights abuses against its religious and spiritual minorities, the UK House of Lords passed an amendment to the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill which seeks to “protect U.K. medical institutions and practitioners from becoming unwittingly complicit in China’s state-sanctioned forced organ harvesting.” In effect, ministers will be permitted to establish regulations to prevent forcibly harvested organs and tissues from China from entering the UK medicinal market. This amendment is a direct response to the 2019 finding of the China Tribunal that China is engaging in forced organ harvesting from religious, spiritual, and other prisoners of conscience, notably Falun Gong practitioners and Uyghurs.
“As demonstrated by the Foreign Secretary’s announcement earlier today, we are prepared to go further where there is clear cause for concern that UK actors could inadvertently contribute to human rights abuses overseas.” – Dominic Raab, UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs
Having passed the UK House of Lords, the bill will soon be re-introduced to the House of Commons.