The White House said President Joe Biden on Thursday (23/12) had signed a bill to become law banning the import of goods produced by Uighur slave labor.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which Congress passed late last week after a year of negotiations, bans all imports from China’s Xinjiang region into the Americas unless companies can show “clear and convincing evidence” that their supply chains do not use ethnic Muslim labor. Uighurs enslaved in Chinese camps.
China describes the camps as “re-education” facilities to combat terrorism.
The new impetus to hold China accountable for human rights abuses comes ahead of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, February 2022.
Earlier this year the United States called China’s actions against the Muslim-Uighur minority a genocide, and last week announced a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Earlier this month an independent court found China’s senior leadership “full responsibility” for genocidal acts against Uighurs.
China has strongly criticized the bill and described America as a hypocrite for not dealing with the forced labor that takes place on its own territory.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press conference last week, “China firmly opposes the interference of the American Congress in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of issues related to Xinjiang. By fabricating lies and making trouble on such issues, some American politicians are trying to pressure China and restrain China’s progress through political manipulation and economic intimidation in the name of human rights.”
Rights groups have praised the law and say it marks an important starting point for countries around the world to address China’s treatment of the Uighurs. “This is a signal to the rest of the world that America is really going to take action on it,” Peter Irwin, senior communications and advocacy program officer at the Uyghur Human Rights Project told VOA.
He added, “This could also be a pattern for other governments to take similar action, and say we will pass our own forced labor laws, for example when America stops allowing forced labor to enter, then the Chinese leadership diverts their exports to other countries. Europe or Canada. So this new law is a framework for other governments to take and pass this kind of bill, which will help America. This is akin to a diplomatic boycott. America is first, and other countries will follow.” [em/jm]