Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and the Chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC)—is applauding the Senate passage of the United States Innovation and Competition Act, legislation that includes a number of key Merkley amendments and CECC-recommended provisions that will help ensure that American advocacy for human rights and democracy remain a centerpiece of the United States’ relationship with China.
“America’s values of freedom and democracy must be at the center of all of our actions and relationships around the world—especially with China,” said Merkley. “This legislation includes crucial support for pro-democracy and pro-human rights groups and steps to protect ethnic minorities facing brutal repression in China, as well as important pathways for strategic economic and diplomatic engagement in the region. While more work remains ahead of us in shaping a relationship with China that holds perpetrators of human rights abuses accountable, the United States Innovation and Competition Act is an important step in the right direction.”
Specific provisions authored and advocated for by Merkley that are included in the United States Innovation and Competition Act include:
- Sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for forced labor in Xinjiang, as called for by the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, introduced by Merkley and Senator Marco Rubio;
- Bipartisan Merkley-Rubio legislation to establish a China Censorship Monitor and Action Group to monitor and address the impacts of China’s censorship or intimidation of U.S. persons and companies that exercise free speech;
- Promoting responsible, low-carbon economic development alternatives to China’s Belt and Road Initiative;
- Requiring reporting on the personnel and expertise required to effectively engage the People’s Republic of China in strategic stability and arms control dialogues;
- Adding the prohibition on the export of covered munitions and crime control items to the Hong Kong Police Force to the list of sanctions covered by the sense of Congress on the centrality of sanctions and other restrictions related to China
- Supporting United States educational and exchange programs with Taiwan by encouraging the establishment of an independent U.S.-Taiwan Cultural Exchange Foundation;
- Requiring a strategy to respond to sharp power operations targeting Taiwan;
- Providing for improved language regarding the treatment of the Taiwan government;
- Improving the Secretary of State’s report on Chinese influence on international organizations to specifically address human rights, internet sovereignty, the development of norms on artificial intelligence, labor, international standards-setting, and freedom of navigation;
- Authorizing appropriations for protecting human rights in the People’s Republic of China; and,
- Including in the strategy to enhance cooperation with South and Central Asia a description of United States diplomatic efforts to protect ethnic minorities fleeing persecution in China.
The legislation also includes a number of steps that have been advocated by the CECC under Merkley’s chairmanship and previously, such as provisions:
- Extending Global Magnitsky Act sanctions, by repealing sunset provisions to make the sanctions authority for the legislation permanent;
- Implementing a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games;
- Promoting internet freedom in Hong Kong, by supporting the development and deployment of internet freedom and Great Firewall circumvention tools for the people of Hong Kong;
- Pushing back against rights violators on the United Nations Human Rights Council;
- Emphasizing centrality of sanctions and other restrictions as powerful tools to advance U.S. foreign policy and pressing for full implementation of these sanctions and restrictions;
- Strengthening U.S. policy in Tibet;
- Reinforcing U.S. policy on the treatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang; and,
- Supporting robust diplomatic engagement with G7 and G20 countries on matters relevant to economic and democratic freedoms.
The provisions secured by Merkley in the United States Innovation and Competition Act are just the latest in the senator’s years-long mission to advocate for human rights in China, work that includes his championing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act. Last fall, Senator Merkley successfully passed legislation to ban the export of crowd control munitions to Hong Kong in an effort to help protect peaceful protesters during the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations.
Merkley has also been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government’s genocide of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, and is the co-lead of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act along with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).