U.S. Senate passes bill banning imports from Xinjiang over human rights abuses

U.S. Senate passes bill banning imports from Xinjiang over human rights abuses
AP Photo/Emrah Gurel
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The United States Senate isn’t going to allow China’s human rights abuses to go unanswered. 

On Wednesday, the Senate passed legislation to halt imports of goods and materials from China’s Xinjiang region, where the Chinese government has detained some two million members of the Uyghur minority group in forced labour camps.

Billed as the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, the bipartisan legislation is sponsored by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley. It was approved in the Senate via unanimous consent, and is now expected to pass the House of Representatives before it heads to President Joe Biden.

Last September, a version of the bill passed the House by a 406-3 margin, but corporations like Apple, Coca Cola and Nike, which benefit from the Xinjiang supply chain, lobbied against its passage in the Senate. 

The bill reads:

Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1307) states that it is illegal to import into the United States “goods, wares, articles, and merchandise mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part” by forced labor. Such merchandise is subject to exclusion or seizure and may lead to criminal investigation of the importer.

The policies of the Government of the People’s Republic of China are in contravention of international human rights instruments signed by that government, including— the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the People’s Republic of China has signed but not yet ratified; the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, ratified by the People’s Republic of China in 2001; and the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol), to which the People’s Republic of China has been a state party since February 2010.

“The message to Beijing and any international company that profits from forced labor in Xinjiang is clear: no more,” said Rubio in a press release. “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.”

“Today the Senate is sending a clear message that the United States will not be complicit in the Chinese government’s genocide of Uyghur Muslims,” added Merkley. “Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang are being forced into labor, tortured, imprisoned, forcibly sterilized, and pressured to abandon their religious and cultural practices by the Chinese government. No American corporation should profit from these abuses. No American consumers should be inadvertently purchasing products from slave labor.”

Rubio called on the House of Representatives and the White House to push the legislation forward and to avoid any further delay in approving it.

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