The US Senate on Wednesday passed a law banning the import of products from China’s Xinjiang region, the latest effort in Washington to punish Beijing for what US officials say is an ongoing genocide against Uighurs and other Muslim groups.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would create a “reprehensible condition”, assuming that goods produced in Xinjiang were forcibly made and therefore banned under the 1930 Tariff Act, unless otherwise certified by the US authorities.
By unanimous consent, the bilateral measure would shift the burden of proof to importers. The current rule prohibits goods when there is reasonable evidence of forced labor.
The bill must also pass the House of Representatives before it can be sent to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law. It was not immediately clear when this could happen.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who introduced legislation with Democrat Jeff Merkley, called on the House to act quickly.
“We will not make a blind eye to the CCP’s further crimes against humanity, and we will not allow companies a free pass to take advantage of these horrific abuses,” Rubio said in a statement.
“No American society should benefit from this abuse. No American consumer should buy unresolved slave labor products,” Merkley said.
Democratic and Republican assistants said they would expect the measure to receive strong support in the House by noting the House adopted a similar measure almost unanimously last year.
The bill would go beyond steps to secure U.S. supply chains in the face of allegations of infringements in China, including existing bans on Xinjiang tomatoes, cotton and some solar products.
The Biden administration has increased sanctions, and on Tuesday issue an advisory warning business they could be a violation of US law if operations were also indirectly connected to surveillance networks in Xinjiang.
Rights groups, researchers, former residents and some Western lawmakers and officials say Xinjiang authorities have simplified forced labor by detaining one million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities since 2016.