Food prices are so high these days that one can hardly fault the average consumer for wanting to find a good deal. But consumers should know that Chinese imports of foods come at a steep moral price. Should Americans pay that price? More importantly, do Americans even realize they’re paying that price?

Consider the recent embarrassing gaffe by Miami Mayor and Republican presidential candidate Francis Suarez. As a guest on Hugh Hewitt’s nationally syndicated radio show, Hewitt asked the mayor about the Uyghurs—a minority, Muslim population that lives in the northwestern area of China, who for decades have been the subject of an attempted genocide by the Chinese government.

In response to Hewitt’s simple questions, Mayor Suarez asked, “What’s a Uyghur,” and sort of chuckled in what can only be described as true ignorance of the matter. It was clear from the response that Mayor Suarez thought Hewitt was having a laugh, perhaps asking him about the latest TikTok craze or a new Star Wars character. Hewitt moved on but later admonished Suarez in a tweet. 

[To read more about this the Uyghurs, see my colleague, the late Claudia Rosset’s article here, as well as additional IWF work here, here, and here]

Suarez’s reaction is concerning. First, it shows that many Americans—even those in powerful political positions—don’t know about the Uyghurs. Second, it shows that many Americans are either ignorant or turn a blind eye to the way Chinese products are produced.

Consider those popular low-priced canned goods imported from China. Largely produced in forced labor camps, private corporations take advantage of the Chinese Communist government’s policy of mass detention and political indoctrination. They know they can get cheap labor and they know American companies can’t compete.  

The State Department actually keeps track of the forced labor camps operating in the Uyghur/Xinjiang Province in western China, where in addition to the Uygur minority population, other minorities—like the Hui, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, and Uzbeks—are forced into re-education camps. Jewish World Watch also keeps an online database of businesses that benefit from China’s forced labor regime. 

According to China expert Gordon Chang, who is also the author of The Coming Collapse of China (highly recommend) there are now 803 firms from more than 35 countries on the database. Those in these camps who are forced to work, do so under the threat of abuse, torture, extreme violence, and death.

Washington is trying to do something about the situation. Last year, Congress passed and the President signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Yet, China may have found a way around this by simply using intermediaries to ensure their cheaper canned foods make it to American markets. Gordon Chang also notes in a recent Newsweek article that President Joe Biden may not really support this new law: 

Some are concerned that President Joe Biden will not enforce the new law. Apple and Nike, two companies that had to know about Uyghur forced labor in their supply chains, fought hard against the adoption of the law—as did the Biden administration itself. The president signed the bill, but only after it passed both houses of Congress with veto-proof majorities.

Why would Biden allow the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to become a dead letter? The new law, among other things, conflicts with his cherished climate change goals.

To further his climate agenda, the president on June 6 waived tariffs on solar cells and modules from four Southeast Asian nations—Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. But the big beneficiary is the Xinjiang region, because products manufactured there are often mislabeled as made in those four countries, especially Vietnam, in order to avoid tariffs and prohibitions.

Congress shouldn’t let this go. American consumers deserve the truth about the food they eat—especially if it’s Chinese imports produced by forced labor.