By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, July 17: The US Senate has passed legislation on Wednesday to ban all imports from Xinjiang or East Turkestan, in the latest move to rebuke the Beijing administration to put a stop to the ongoing genocide of the Uyghur community. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would thereby create a “rebuttal presumption” that will assume goods manufactured in Xinjiang are made with forced labor, which are therefore banned under the 1930 Tariff Act.
The bipartisan legislation was passed with unanimous consent which has now shifted the burden of proof to importers; the rule bans goods if there is any reasonable evidence of forced labor in the production chain. However, the bill must also be passed by the House of Representatives before it can be sent to the White House for President Biden to sign it into law.
Introduced in the Senate by Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democrat Jeff Merkley, the lawmakers urged the House to act quickly to condemn human rights abuses in Xinjiang. “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,” Rubio said in a statement. The bill would be one step ahead after the numerous measures taken by the US to secure US supply chains in the face of allegations regarding rights abuses in China, following existing bans on the sale of tomatoes, cotton and solar products from East Turkistan or Xinjiang.
“No American corporation should profit from these abuses. No American consumers should be inadvertently purchasing products from slave labor,” MP Merkley said. Both the Democrats and Republicans noted that this legislation would get strong support in the House as they approved a similar measure unanimously last year. The Biden administration continues to impose sanctions, and also issued an advisory warning to businesses that they would be violating US law even if the companies are linked indirectly to surveillance networks in Xinjiang.
“Given the severity and extent of these abuses, businesses and individuals that do not exit supply chains, ventures, and/or investments connected to Xinjiang could run a high risk of violating U.S. law,” the State Department said in a statement on Tuesday. Rights groups, activists and lawmakers have repeatedly accused the Chinese administration of forced labor by detaining around a million Uyghurs and Muslim minorities since 2016 in large scale detention centers.