US Senate passes bill to ban all products from China’s Xinjiang over rights abuses in the region

The US Senate has passed legislation to ban the import of products from China’s Xinjiang region, to punish Beijing for what the US officials call an ongoing genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim groups.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would create a “rebuttable presumption” assuming that the goods manufactured in Xinjiang region are made with forced labor. Hence it is banned under the 1930 Tariff Act, unless certified by US officials. 

While the bill is passed by unified consent, the bipartisan measure would shift the burden of proof to importers. Presently this rule bans goods if there is reasonable evidence of forced labor.

Before it can be sent to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law, the bill must also pass the House of Representatives. It not clear when that would happen.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, proposed the bill with Democrat Jeff Merkley, and called on the House to act immediately.

“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,” Marco Rubio said.

“No American corporation should profit from these abuses. No American consumers should be inadvertently purchasing products from slave labor,” Democratic Jeff Merkley said.

Noting that the House approved a similar legislature unanimously last year, Democratic and Republican aides said they expected the measure would get strong support in the House.

The rule would go beyond steps already taken to secure US supply chains in the face of allegations of human rights abuses in China, along with existing bans on Xinjiang tomatoes, cotton and several solar products.

The Biden administration has already increased sanctions, and issued an advisory warning businesses on Tuesday that they could be in violation of US law if operations are linked even indirectly to surveillance networks in China’s Xinjiang region.

Rights groups, researchers, former residents and several Western lawmakers and authorities say that since 2016, Xinjiang officials have facilitated forced labor by detaining nearly million Uyghurs and other primarily Muslim minorities.

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