Congress passes ban on all imports from China's Xinjiang unless businesses can prove they are made without forced labor

Chinese and US flags flutter outside the building of an American company in Beijing, China
Congress has passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act amid intense concerns about human rights abuses against the the Turkic Muslim minority group in China's Xinjiang region.

Tingshu Wang/Reuters

  • The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act was passed unanimously by the Senate on Thursday.
  • It comes amid intense concerns about human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in China's Xinjiang region.
  • The bill now goes to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law.

The Senate has passed a bill that would ban imports from China's Xinjiang region — unless companies can prove that they were not produced using forced labor.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act now goes to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law. Press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Tuesday that the president "welcomes the agreement by Congress" on the bipartisan bill.

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives have been debating Uyghur legislation for months.

"The Administration will work closely with Congress to implement this bill to ensure global supply chains are free of forced labor, while simultaneously working to on-shore and third-shore key supply chains, including semiconductors and clean energy," Psaki said.

The developments come amid intense concerns about human rights abuses, including government surveillanceforced sterilization, and re-education camps, against the Uyghur, a Turkic Muslim minority ethnic group, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In 2018, the United Nations called the Uyghur Autonomous Region a "no rights zone" and said the area was a "massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy."

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian called accusations of forced labor and genocide in Xinjiang "the biggest lie of the century" that is the "politically correct thing to do in the US," according to an official transcript of the ministry's regular press conference.

"China firmly opposes the interference by the US Congress in China's internal affairs under the pretext of Xinjiang-related issues," said Zhao. "By cooking up lies and making troubles on such issues, some US politicians are seeking to contain China and hold back China's development through political manipulation and economic bullying in the name of 'human rights.'"

"Many companies have already taken steps to clean up their supply chains. And, frankly, they should have no concerns about this law," said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the authors of the bill. "For those who have not done that, they'll no longer be able to continue to make Americans — every one of us, frankly — unwitting accomplices in the atrocities, in the genocide that's being committed by the Chinese Communist Party." 

"We have a moral and economic imperative to eliminate this practice from our global supply chains, including those that run through Xinjiang, China, and exploit Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities," United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement.

The bill comes on the back of other moves by US authorities punishing China over the allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Yesterday, drone-maker DJI and seven other Chinese companies were added to a US investment blacklist, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Last year, the US banned the import of certain products — including cotton — from Xinjiang, over concerns about forced labor in the region.

 According to a report published in November, 82 major companies around the world — including Gap, Target and Uniqlo — were linked to intermediaries supplying Xinjiang cotton yarn or fabric.

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Source: science

Congress passes ban on all imports from China's Xinjiang unless businesses can prove they are made without forced labor