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Experts Tell Congress Americans Are Eating Seafood Processed By Slaves

The Congressional Executive Committee on China (CECC) on Tuesday heard testimony that China-based companies use forced labor from North Koreans and Uighur Muslims to process seafood for U.S. consumption. I listened.

Experts told the panel that even U.S. military feeding companies purchase fish caught and processed using slave labor.

of Congressional hearingThe book, wittyly titled “From Feed to Plate: How China’s Forced Labor Contaminates America’s Seafood Supply Chain,” was inspired by: report A group called Outlaw Ocean Project (OOP) has received reports of “rampant” use of forced labor by Chinese fishing companies.

The latest of those reports asserted that “slavery has not disappeared; it has simply moved to the seas.” The report documents an “epidemic” of forced labor in the South China Sea, with “tens of thousands of migrants from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar” being forced to work to fill labor shortages.

China is not the only perpetrator. Thailand has also been accused of forcing migrants into a “brutal” fishing industry where they are unable to complain about their treatment or quit their terrible “jobs”. Much of this forced labor is exploited by young boys, who work without breaks under the scorching sun with minimal food and drinking water.

OOP declared China a “seafood superpower” and said its dominance comes at a “grave human cost” as Chinese fishing fleets are “prone to captive labor and plunder.”

Chinese fishing fleets are said to be preying on simple villagers in the Indo-Pacific looking for work, and rumors have been heard that commercial fisheries pay significantly higher wages for unskilled workers. Some of these villagers are scooped up by shady “employment agencies” that promise good positions in reputable Korean or Japanese companies, only to be thrown onto hideous Chinese slave ships where they are forced to work as non-Chinese laborers. Individuals are treated like animals and may be subject to punishment such as beatings. Communication with the outside world is blocked.

Survivors of the experience say the surest ticket to a vicious assault was trying to quit a “job” that paid only a fraction of what they had expected. China’s large fishing vessels tend to operate far from shore, making it difficult to leave port or seek help in any case.

With China’s voracious overfishing depleting many local resources, Chinese fishing fleets have spread across the Pacific, devouring everything with their fins and bullying everything with their portholes. OOP noted that China currently catches more than 5 billion pounds of seafood annually through deep-sea fishing, generating $35 billion in revenue and sustaining 15 million jobs. Most of China’s fishing industry is state-owned, and by definition, all Chinese companies are state-owned.

Photo of fish captured from two Chinese vessels “Far East I” and “Far East II” in the port of Abidjan on December 27, 2007 using “bottom trawling” in violation of national fishing laws. . Ivorian fishing organizations warned earlier this month of the threat to aquatic flora and fauna in the country’s waters from “exploitation and abuse” by Chinese fishing fleets. (KAMBOU SIA/AFP via Getty Images)

OOP said China is using its massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to expand its fishing industry by developing ports that can “avoid taxes and avoid interference from inspectors.” Chinese fishing fleets also monitor the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and act as a maritime “militia” to further China’s territorial ambitions by forcing other countries out of disputed waters.

Meanwhile, Uyghur slaves and imported North Korean slave labor labor in large seafood processing plants on the Chinese coast, and much of their product is exported to American stores and cafeterias. Tuesday’s CECC hearing discussed how it will be used in 2021. Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Law However, the large volume of imports and the difficulty of sourcing shipments make this difficult.

CECC Chairman Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said OOP’s investigation found that “nearly half of China’s squid fleet, 357 of the 751 vessels we investigated, were involved in human rights and environmental abuses.” pointed out the results. More than 100 of the vessels were being monitored for illegal fishing or intrusion into other countries’ waters.

“It is clear that the People’s Republic of China is not the only party involved in these reprehensible acts. Governments, including our own, are complicit in sourcing contaminated seafood,” Smith said. Told.

The Chair also noted the significant security implications of China’s use of a large “maritime militia” to carry out surveillance and espionage activities.

“China, under Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party, is trying to overturn the rules of the world’s international order and engage in lawless and predatory behavior at sea and on land. “It shows no respect whatsoever,” he declared.

CECC co-chairman Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said at least 10 major Chinese seafood companies have forced “more than 1,000 Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.” He said he was arrested for forcing them to work.

“My colleagues and I are appalled by reports that this seafood processed by Uyghur forced laborers is entering the United States,” Merkley said in a statement. He called on the Border Patrol (CBP) to take stronger action.

Merkley said that in violation of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), “more than 1,000 tons of seafood was shipped to U.S. importers by Chinese seafood processing companies with ties to North Korean workers.” It cited an OOP investigation that found that the products were being exported.

OOP founder and director Ian Urbina told CECC that seafood is “the world’s last major source of wild protein” and “the largest globally traded food commodity by value”. , “It’s more difficult to track than many other products.” It is harvested on the high seas, where there is little oversight or enforcement of “almost non-existent and vague regulations.”

Urbina said enforcement of labor laws is particularly difficult at sea because “workplaces are in constant motion” and crew members are often from poor countries with little access to “political capital and legal means.” It pointed out.

Urbina memorably summed up the complex feed-to-plate supply chain:

From fishing vessels, to refrigerated vessels, to ports, to processors, to cold storage, to exporters, to U.S. importers, distributors or food service companies, and finally to restaurants, grocery stores, or public food pantries. , military base, or public school. These large numbers of surrenders make it even more difficult to trace the true origin of the catch and ensure that supply chains are free of forced labor and other environmental crimes.

Urbina said, “The use of Xinjiang workers is not illegal under Chinese law, and Xinjiang workers receive adequate living conditions, pay, job training, and fair treatment, so forced labor is not illegal.” He rejected China’s claim that it was not true.

“U.S. seafood companies need to understand that this misses the point. Under U.S. law, any employment of Xinjiang workers is considered illegal because it is a large, government-run It does not matter whether these workers are paid or whether they tell auditors or state media that they are happy to do the work. Yes, it doesn’t matter,” he said, likening the situation in the Uyghurs to a violation of child labor laws.

Robert K. Sternberg, a law professor at Georgetown University, says that even if the fish is advertised as “locally sourced” or “wild-caught,” “much of the fish leaving U.S. waters or U.S.-flagged vessels is frozen. “Because they are being sent to the United States, they may be contaminated by forced labor.” It is processed in China, refrozen, and then shipped back to the United States. ”

Sternberg said the supply chain is so complex that it’s difficult to even know how much contaminated seafood the U.S. government has purchased. He was not convinced by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) guarantee that all fish purchased “must be grown and processed within the United States or its territories.”

“Contractors may claim that U.S.-caught fish is available, but domestic processing capacity is not,” he said. “Imagine a conversation where you say, “Domestic processing has become too expensive.” So why shouldn’t we process fish in China? Processing costs do not exceed 45% of total costs. . And no one will be able to tell the difference.”

Greg Scaratoiu, executive director of the Human Rights Commission for North Korea (HRNK), testified that Chinese seafood processing plants are “notorious for relying on forced and indentured labor, including North Korean workers.”

The Kim regime in Pyongyang simply sells workers to other countries as if they were livestock, and seizes most of the proceeds as profits for the dictatorship, but this heinous act has caused the United Nations Security Council to It prohibited other countries from using North Korean workers. In 2019, he was called for immediate expulsion.

Scarlatoiu said the UN ban has been “largely ignored” and China in particular “continues to exploit North Korea’s overseas labor force wherever possible.” Although China has tried to cover its tracks by deleting online records of North Korean employment, some evidence remains that seafood processed by North Korean slaves was exported to U.S. consumers. It has been pointed out that

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