China’s ongoing repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang has produced a relatively weak response from the United States and Western Europe. One suggestion from Human Rights Watch revived an old idea: Insist that multinational companies doing business in China adopt human rights monitoring to exert pressure on China and bring about change. Such human rights codes have become routine over the past four decades. The United Nations Human Rights Council created nonbinding guidelines for corporations in 2011. Businesses often create their own codes and standards. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility encourages activists to force companies to adopt codes through shareholder activism.

China’s repression of the Uighurs appears to be an enormous abuse of human rights with devastating consequences, and groups such as Human Rights Watch are correct in making their concerns known. But rather than having companies adopt voluntary codes of conduct to put pressure on the regime while protecting their bottom line, businesses and civil society groups should insist on more radical, enforceable changes.