The US Senate on Thursday, December 16, passed a bill banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region unless these are certified as not made with forced labor passed.
The proposed measure titled “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act” is awaiting the signature of US President Joe Biden for it to become a law.
The bill aims to block the import of goods into the US from Xinjiang without “clear and convincing evidence” that they were not made with forced labor.
The vote in the Senate followed a unanimous vote early in the week in the House of Representatives, in what Radio Free Asia described as “a rare and strong show of bi-partisan support” for US policies to counter widespread abuses committed against the Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in Xinjiang.
“This bill represents our country’s commitment to protecting human dignity and leading the fight against forced labor,” said US Trade Representative Katherine Tai.
“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,” she added in a statement.
“This law is the beginning of the end of ‘business as usual,’” said Omer Kanat, executive director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project.
“With mountains of evidence that Uyghurs are subjected to state-imposed forced labor — whether they are business owners, teachers, nurses, students, or farmers — it is about time that we put the burden of proof on companies,” said Kanat.
The vote came a week after the independent Uyghur Tribunal in London ruled that China has committed genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
The ruling was based on evidence from survivors, witnesses and experts on the Chinese policies in the region, including the network of detention camps in which China has held as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities since 2017, forced birth control, and forced labor.
China rejects the accusations.
Although the tribunal is non-binding and has no state backing, Uyghur groups responded to the findings of genocide and crimes against humanity by preparing or proceeding with lawsuits in Argentina and the UK. – with a report from Radio Free Asia