Senators gave final congressional approval on Thursday to a bill barring imports from China’s Xinjiang region unless businesses can prove they were produced without forced labour, overcoming initial hesitation from White
House and what supporters said was opposition from corporations.
The measure is the latest in a series intensifying US penalties over China’s alleged systemic and widespread abuse of ethnic and religious minorities in western region, especially Xinjiang’s predominantly Muslim Uyghurs. The Biden administration also announced new sanctions Thursday targeting several Chinese biotech and surveillance companies, a leading drone manufacturer and government entities for their actions in Xinjiang.
The Senate vote sends bill to President Joe Biden. Press secretary Jen Psaki said this week that Biden supported measure, after months of White House declining to take a public stand on an earlier version of legislation. The United States says China is committing genocide in its treatment of Uyghurs. That includes widespread reports by rights groups and journalists of forced sterilization and large detention camps where many Uyghurs allegedly are compelled to work in factories.
China denies any abuses. It says steps it has taken are necessary to combat terrorism and a separatist movement. The U.S. cites raw cotton, gloves, tomato products, silicon and viscose, fishing gear and a range of components in solar energy as among goods alleged to have been produced with help of the forced labour.
Xinjiang is a resource-rich mining region, important for agricultural production, and home to a booming industrial sector. Detainees also are moved outside Xinjiang and put to work in factories, including those in apparel and textiles, electronics, solar energy and automotive sectors, the US says. “Many companies have already taken steps to clean up their supply chains. And, frankly, they should have no concerns about this law,” Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who introduced the earlier version of the legislation with Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, said in a statement.