In a significant development, the U.S. Senate has passed a bill that bans the import of products from China’s Xinjiang region.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act creates a “rebuttable presumption” on the assumption that goods manufactured in Xinjiang are made with forced labor and are therefore banned under the 1930 Tariff Act, unless otherwise certified by U.S. authorities.
The bipartisan measure, was passed unanimously, would shift the burden of proof to importers. The current rule bans goods if there is reasonable evidence of forced labor.
The bill must now pass the House of Representatives before it can be sent to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who introduced the legislation with Democrat Jeff Merkley, called on the House to act quickly.
“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,” said Rubio in a statement. “No American corporation should profit from these abuses. No American consumers should be inadvertently purchasing products from slave labor,” said Merkley.
According to Democratic and Republican aides, the measure is likely to get strong support in the House, and note that the House had approved a similar measure nearly unanimously in 2020.
The bill goes beyond steps already taken by the US to secure supply chains in the face of widespread allegations of gross human rights abuses in China.
Former residents of the forced labor camps, along with rights groups, researchers, lawmakers and officials say, since at least 2016 Xinjiang authorities have been facilitating forced labor by detaining around a million Uyghurs and other primarily Muslim minorities.