The Senate unanimously passed a bill punishing the Chinese Communist Party for a history of human rights abuses. The Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act would ban all imports from the Chinese region of Xinjiang unless there is "clear and convincing evidence" that the "products were not produced wholly or in part by convict labor, forced labor, or indentured labor under penal sanctions."
"In the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, the Government of the People’s Republic of China has, since 2017, arbitrarily detained as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups in a system of extrajudicial mass internment camps, and has subjected detainees to forced labor, torture, political indoctrination, and other severe human rights abuses," the bill states.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act states that efforts to certify that products are not made by forced labor are "unreliable due to the extent forced labor has been integrated into the regional economy, the mixing of involuntary labor with voluntary labor, the inability of witnesses to speak freely about working conditions given government surveillance and coercion, and the incentive of government officials to conceal government-sponsored forced labor."
The bill hopes to open the door for other countries to stop importing goods made with forced labor from the Xinjiang region.
NBC News reported, "Xinjiang is a resource-rich mining region, important for agricultural production, particularly cotton and tomatoes, and home to a booming industrial sector."
The bipartisan bill was first introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), and James P. McGovern (D-Mass.) in 2020.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act last week by an overwhelming vote of 428-1. The bill now heads to the desk of President Joe Biden.
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration "welcomes" the legislation.
"The President welcomes the agreement by Congress on the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act," Psaki said in a press release. "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."
"That is why the Administration has already taken concrete measures including imposing visa restrictions, Global Magnitsky Act and other financial sanctions, export controls, import restrictions, and the release of a business advisory," the statement reads.
"The Administration will work closely with Congress to implement this bill to ensure global supply chains are free of forced labor, while simultaneously working to on-shore and third-shore key supply chains, including semiconductors and clean energy," she concluded.
China denies any human rights abuses. In April, CCP foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said accusations of forced labor or concentration camps in Xinjiang are "lies and false information concocted by anti-China forces" in an effort to "undermine Xinjiang’s stability and security and curb China’s development."