The United States had already put in place several restrictions for imports from Xinjiang, where rights groups say Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities have faced a series of human rights abuses. man, including being placed in mass internment camps.
Under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, passed in late 2021, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will now block all imports into the region. It will also block goods made by companies outside the region, whose ties to Xinjiang companies or the Xinjiang government make them complicit – according to the Ministry of Commerce – in forced labor practices.
“Importers must prove to authorities with ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that the goods are not produced by forced labor if they are to resume imports,” CBP said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the ban underscores the Biden administration’s commitment to fighting forced labor everywhere.
“We are bringing together our allies and partners to make global supply chains free from the use of forced labor, to speak out against the atrocities in Xinjiang, and to join us in calling on the government of the (People’s Republic of China) to immediately end to atrocities and human rights abuses, including forced labor,” Blinken said.
China’s Commerce Ministry responded on Tuesday by saying it was “resolutely opposed” to the ban, which it said “seriously harms the interests of businesses and consumers in both countries.”
“The truth is that Chinese laws explicitly prohibit forced labor,” the ministry said, adding that China will take “necessary measures” to protect its national interests.
CBP has stepped up efforts in recent years to block goods from Xinjiang, under the Trump and Biden administrations. In 2020, the US government announced that it would block cotton imports from Xinjiang – relying on other orders restricting the entry of these products into the United States.
The State Department has estimated that since 2017, up to two million Uyghurs and members of other ethnic groups have been imprisoned in a shadowy network of internment camps where they would be “subjected to torture, treatment cruel and inhumane acts such as physical and sexual abuse, forced labor and death”.
China described the facilities as “vocational training centers” and claimed that in 2019 these centers were closed. Officials have always denied all allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Western governments and human rights organizations have alleged that minorities in the region have been subjected to forced labor through job creation programs which the Chinese government says aim to “reduce the poverty”.
Workers who participated in these employment programs told CNN that if they did not accept the jobs offered to them, for a fraction of the usual rate of pay, they were warned that they would be sent to labor camps. .
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