US President Joe Biden signed into law the law on Thursday that bans concerns about forced labor from China’s Xinjiang region, the White House said, prompting angry Chinese condemnation.
The Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act is part of US pushback against Beijing’s treatment of China’s Uighur Muslim minority, which Washington has dubbed genocide.
Bill Congress passed This month when lawmakers reached a settlement between the House and Senate versions.
Key to the law is a “refutable presumption” that assumes all goods from Xinjiang, where Beijing has set up detention camps for Uighurs and other Muslim groups, are built with forced labor. It prohibits imports unless it can be proved otherwise.
Some goods – such as cotton, tomatoes and polysilicon used in solar panel manufacturing – have been designated as “high priority” for enforcement action.
China denies abuses in Xinjiang, a major cotton producer that also supplies much of the world’s material for solar panels.
Its Washington embassy said the act “ignores the truth and maliciously discredits the human rights situation in Xinjiang”.
“This is a serious violation of international law and norms of international relations, and gross interference in China’s internal affairs. China strongly condemns and strongly rejects it,” embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu said in an emailed statement. “
He said China “will respond further in light of the development of the situation”, but did not elaborate.
Nouri Turkel, Uighur-American Vice President of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom Reuters The bill’s effectiveness this month will depend on the willingness of Biden’s administration to make sure it is effective, especially as companies seek exemptions.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Biden’s approval of the law “underscores the United States’ commitment to combating forced labor, in the context of the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang.”
“The State Department is committed to working with Congress and our interagency partners to continue addressing bonded labor in Xinjiang and strengthen international action against this blatant violation of human rights,” he said in a statement.
Democratic Senator Jeff Merkle, one of the bill’s co-authors, said it was “necessary to send a resounding and clear message against genocide and slave labor.”
“Now … we can finally ensure that American consumers and businesses can buy goods without unintentional collusion in China’s horrific human rights abuses,” he said in a statement.
In its final days in January, the Trump administration announced a ban on all Xinjiang cotton and tomato products.
The US Customs and Border Protection Agency estimated at the time that cotton products worth about $9 billion and tomato products worth $10 million were imported from China in the past year.