US implements import ban on goods from China’s Xinjiang over allegations of forced labour, genocide against Uyghurs

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the United States is rallying allies against forced labor as it begins to implement a ban on imports of goods from China’s Xinjiang region, where Washington says Beijing is committing genocide.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has begun enforcing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law in December.

CBP said it was ready to implement the law’s “rebuttable presumption” that all goods from Xinjiang, where Chinese authorities have established detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim groups , are made with forced labor and prohibited from importation, unless proven otherwise.

The agency said a very high standard of proof would be required for importers to benefit from an exception to the law.

“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 PRC government [People’s Republic of China] immediately end the atrocities and human rights violations,” Blinken said in a statement.

“With our interagency partners, we will continue to engage companies to remind them of US legal obligations.”

A long shot shows watchtowers and barbed wire around a building.
China has been accused of running detention camps for Uighurs and other Muslim groups in Xinjiang.(Reuters: Thomas Pierre)

Last year, an Australian Senate committee called for the Customs Act to be amended “to prohibit the importation of any goods made in whole or in part by forced labour”.

The ABC contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to ask if Australia was considering backing the US decision and taking its own action.

China denies abuses in Xinjiang, a major cotton producer that also supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin earlier said in Beijing that the forced labor allegations in Xinjiang were a “big lie concocted by anti-China forces”.

“With this so-called law, the United States is trying to create forced unemployment in Xinjiang and pressure the world to decouple from China,” Wang said.

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