US passes bill to ban imports made by Xinjiang forced labour

Muslim trainees work at a garment factory in Hotan, Xinjiang in September last year. (AP pic)


WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives passed legislation on Wednesday to ban imports from China’s Xinjiang region over concerns about forced labour, one of three measures backed overwhelmingly as Washington continues its pushback against Beijing’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority.

The House backed the “Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act” by an overwhelming 428-1. To become law, it must also pass the Senate and be signed by President Joe Biden.

The Uighur measure would create a “rebuttable presumption” that all goods from Xinjiang, where the Chinese government has set up a vast network of detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim groups, were made with forced labour.

China denies abuses in Xinjiang, but the US government and many rights groups say Beijing is carrying out genocide there.

Republicans have accused Biden’s White House and his fellow Democrats in Congress of slow-walking the legislation because it would complicate the president’s renewable energy agenda.

Xinjiang supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels.

The White House – and congressional Democrats – deny delaying the bills.

Citing China’s human rights “atrocities”, the Biden administration on Monday announced that US government officials would boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

The Democratic-led House also passed two other measures related to China and rights by huge margins on Wednesday.

The House voted 428-0 for a resolution saying that the International Olympic Committee violated its own human rights commitments by cooperating with China’s government.

It voted by 427 to 1 for a resolution condemning the “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity” committed against Uighurs and members of other religious and ethic minority groups by China and calling for action at the UN.