The U.S. Congress on Wednesday passed legislation banning the entry into the United States of goods produced by forced labor in northwestern Chinaâ€™s Xinjiang region, underscoring U.S. opposition to Chinese policies targeting ethnic Uyghurs.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act when signed into law will block the importing of goods produced by forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
The measure will also authorize sanctions on foreign individuals and entities found responsible for serious human rights abuses in connection with forced labor in Xinjiang.
Passed in the House of Representatives by a majority of 428 to 1 in a bipartisan vote, the legislation had earlier cleared the Senate unanimously on July 15, and the House bill will need to be reconciled with the Senate bill before being sent to President Biden for signing into law.
International rights groups quickly welcomed passage of the Act, with Dolkun Isa â€“ president of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress â€“ calling for prompt action to sign the legislation into law.
â€œWe hope President Biden signs the UFLPA into law in the shortest possible time, because this piece of legislation is of historic importance to stop Chinaâ€™s genocide against the Uyghurs,â€ Isa said.
â€œThis is a historic day for the Uyghur people,â€ Isa added.
Congress on Wednesday also passed a resolution officially recognizing Chinaâ€™s treatment of the Uyghurs as genocide, a position taken this year by the U.S. State Department and the legislatures of several European countries.
Also passed was a resolution condemning the International Olympic Committee for endorsing the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
The U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Lithuania have all announced diplomatic boycotts of the 2022 Games in Beijing, saying that while these countriesâ€™ athletes will be allowed to compete, no government ministers or other official representatives will be sent to attend.
‘Modern day slavery’
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedoms vice chair Nury Turkel expressed his appreciation for the Congressâ€™s â€œbicameral and bipartisan support for the efforts to end the enslavement of Uyghurs and others in China.â€
â€œIn a liberal international order, there can be no room for forced labor that amounts to modern day slavery which should shock the conscience of consumers, policy makers and business leaders.â€
â€œWe shouldnâ€™t sacrifice Uyghursâ€™ lives for business interests or our addiction to cheap consumer goods,â€ Turkel said, noting that more work now needs to be done to finalize details of the forced labor bill before it goes to the president for signing.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a statement ahead of Wednesdayâ€™s vote said the legislation being considered on the floor sends a â€œclear and direct messageâ€ to Beijing.
â€œThe United States Congress, on a bipartisan and bicameral basis, stands united in demanding that the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China be held accountable and immediately cease its human rights abuses: from its genocide against the Uyghurs, to its long campaign of repression against the Tibetan people and to its assault on basic freedoms in Hong Kong and on the mainland.â€
â€œAs House Speaker, I applaud the Presidentâ€™s leadership with the White House announcement that there will be no official U.S. diplomatic presence at the 2022 Winter Olympics,â€ Pelosi said.
Since 2017, China has held as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a network of detention camps that Beijing claims are vocational training centers.
The camps are the center of a campaign of repression that also includes enforced birth control and forced labor and has drawn charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in the West. China rejects the accusations.
Earlier this year, Washington, citing concerns about forced labor, tightened scrutiny and import controls on Chinese firms that manufacture solar-panel material, wigs, electronics, tomatoes, and cotton with suspected forced Uyghur labor.
Reported and translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.