The U.S. Senate passed a bill on Wednesday to ban the import of products from China’s Xinjiang region over ongoing genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim groups.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act requires the United States Department of Homeland Security to create a list of entities who collaborate with the Chinese government in the repression of ethnic minority Uyghurs and other groups. It also contains a “rebuttable presumption” that assumes all goods were made with forced labor unless the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection gives an exception.
The bill must also pass the House of Representatives before it can be sent to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law. It was not immediately clear when that might take place.
“Once this bill passes the House, and is signed by the president, the United States will have more tools to prevent products made with forced labor from entering our nation’s supply chains,” Senator Marco Rubio said in a statement.
"We will not turn a blind eye to the CCP's ongoing crimes against humanity, and we will not allow corporations a free pass to profit from those horrific abuses," the Senator added.
Rights groups, researchers, former residents and some Western lawmakers and officials say Xinjiang authorities have facilitated forced labor by detaining around a million Uyghurs and other primarily Muslim minorities since 2016.
The United States has repeatedly criticized Beijing over its actions in Xinjiang, saying they amount to genocide and crimes against humanity. A group of United Nations experts said in 2018 that anywhere from tens of thousands to “upwards of 1 million” Uyghurs have been detained, while a labor-transfer program has generated concerns that participants are coerced into taking jobs.
The U.S. has already put import bans on cotton, tomatoes and some solar products originating from Xinjiang, and sanctioned Chinese officials overseeing the region along with the European Union, the U.K. and Canada. Last week, it added 34 entities to its economic blacklist, including 14 Chinese enterprises that are alleged to be involved in human-rights abuses in the Xinjiang region.