United States poised to become first country to ban goods made by Uyghur Muslim slave labor
The United States is on its way to becoming the first country to ban the import of goods produced by Uyghur slave labor.
After over a year of discussions, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act on Thursday, sending the bill to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law (VOA News). This bill would ban imports from China’s Xinjiang region unless companies can prove to the U.S. government that they are not using Muslim slave laborers.
Ethnic Muslims are enslaved in labor camps that the Chinese government calls “re-education” facilities with the purpose of fighting terrorism. The House and Senate had both previously passed different versions of this bill, but House Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) worked together to reach an agreement on a final version of the bill.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement, “We agree with Congress that action can and must be taken to hold the People’s Republic of China accountable for genocide and human rights abuses and to address forced labor in Xinjiang.”
China has since spoken out against the bill after it was passed by the House on Wednesday. Zhao Lijan, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said in a press conference, “China firmly opposes the interference by the U.S. Congress in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of Xinjiang – related issues. By cooking up lies and making troubles on such issues, some U.S. politicians are seeking to contain China and hold back China’s development through political manipulation and economic bullying in the name of human rights.”
Senator Rubio praised the compromised legislation saying, “The United States is so reliant on China that we have turned a blind eye to the slave labor that makes our clothes, our solar panels, and much more. That changes today.”
Several human rights groups have praised the bill, including the Uyghur Human Rights Project. Additionally, this legislation represents a bipartisan agreement in Congress, something that is very rare during this time of political polarization.