President Biden signs bill to clamp down on products from China’s Xinjiang
United States President Joe Biden, pictured, in late December 2021 signed into law legislation that bans imports from China’s Xinjiang region over concerns about forced labor, the White House said.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is part of the U.S. pushback against Beijing’s treatment of China’s Uyghur Muslim minority, which Washington has labeled genocide.
Key to the legislation, which was passed by the U.S. Congress in December 2021, is a “rebuttable presumption” that all goods from Xinjiang, where Beijing has established detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim groups, are made with forced labor. It bars imports unless it can be proven otherwise.
Some goods — such as cotton, tomatoes and polysilicon used in solar-panel manufacturing — are designated “high priority” for enforcement action.
Beijing denies abuses in Xinjiang, a major cotton producer that also supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels. The Chinese embassy in Washington said the act “ignores the truth and maliciously slanders the human rights situation in Xinjiang.”
Nury Turkel, Uyghur-American vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said before the bill became law that its effectiveness would depend on the administration’s willingness to ensure its enforcement, especially when companies seek waivers.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said President Biden’s signing of the law underscored the “United States’ commitment to combating forced labor, including in the context of the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang.”
“The State Department is committed to working with Congress and our interagency partners to continue addressing forced labor in Xinjiang and to strengthen international action against this egregious violation of human rights,” Blinken said in a statement.
One of the bill’s co-authors, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, said it was necessary to “send a resounding and unequivocal message against genocide and slave labor.”
“Now … we can finally ensure that American consumers and businesses can buy goods without inadvertent complicity in China’s horrific human rights abuses,” Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, said in a statement.
In January 2021, the administration of then-U.S. President Donald Trump announced a ban on all Xinjiang cotton and tomato products.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency estimated then that about U.S. $9 billion of cotton products and U.S. $10 million of tomato products were imported from China in the previous year.
IMAGE CREDIT: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS