In the newest move by Biden administration to penalize Beijing for forced labor and other abuses it says constitute genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs, the U.S. Senate has passed legislation that bans the import of products from China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
The unanimously passed bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would generate what is referred to as a ‘rebuttable presumption’ that assumes goods made in the XUAR are made with forced labor and thus banned under the 1930 Tariff Act.
The Act places the responsibility on importing companies to verify that goods coming from the XUAR or other Chinese government labor schemes for Uyghurs are not made with ‘forced labor’ in order to win government certification.
The bill also addresses human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims through targeted sanctions those believed responsible for misuses committed in the XUAR.
The bill sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio with support from Senator Jeff Merkley was presented in late January, a week after the U.S. State Department stated that China’s suppression of Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities in the XUAR, with its use of imprisonment camps and forced sterilizations, amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity.
The bill must now be passed by the House of Representatives after that chamber’s version of the legislation is matched with the Senate act, then signed by President Joe Biden before it becomes law.
Rubio earlier wrote the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, the first piece of legislation on Uyghur human rights to be signed into law in the world.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act was introduced in the House of Representatives in March 2020 and passed about six months later, but was never brought to the floor by the Senate.
The Biden administration has imposed sanctions on 14 Chinese firms and other entities, issued an advisory warning business in violation of U.S. law if actions are linked even indirectly to surveillance networks in Xinjiang.
The US Department of Homeland Security will also work to create a list of entities that work with the Chinese government in the suppression of Uyghurs as the Bloomberg news agency reported. In recent months, the western governments have toughened their attitude toward companies operating in Xinjiang. And recently, the Biden administration created an economic blacklist over the suspected abuses in the region.
Human rights groups Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have published reports about China’s crimes against humanity and possibly genocide against the 12 million Uyghur population and other mostly-Muslim ethnic groups of Xinjiang.
Authorities predict that at least a million people in the region have been detained in camps or imprisoned as part of a crackdown that began in 2017.
As Xinjiang produces 85% of China’s cotton and accounts for a fifth of global supplies, the US has already banned imports of Xinjiang cotton and tomatoes and some solar products.