US Congress passes bill to end imports of goods manufactured or produced with Uyghur forced labour

US Congress approves the ban on East Turkistan (Chinese: Xinjiang) imports made with forced labour. Image: AP

DHARAMSALA, 17 Dec: The US Congress has passed a bill that bars imports of goods manufactured or produced in east Turkistan unless they are proved to be free of Uyghur forced labour.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a law to ensure that goods made with forced labour in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China do not enter the United States market, and for other purposes has been unanimously approved by the US Senate on Thursday through a voice vote, a week after the House overwhelmingly approved it by a vote of 428-1. 

The legislation bans imports of  “all goods, wares, articles, and merchandise mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part” in east Turkistan “unless US Customs and Border Protection certifies by clear and convincing evidence that goods were not produced with forced labour.”

Congressmen Jim McGovern who introduced the bill in House has described the legislation as a strong bipartisan bicameral consensus bill and tweeted that “Forced labour is a serious human rights abuse. it is illegal under US law to import goods made with forced labour. we are compelled to move this legislation by the genocide crimes against humanity committed by the Chinese government against the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, of which forced labour is a key factor.”

Campaign for Uyghurs(CFU), a group that works to promote and advocate the human rights and democratic freedoms of the Uyghurs and other Turkic people in East Turkistan has applause the passage of the bill and declared that they acknowledge the historic significance of this legislation which will combat complicity in the Uyghur Genocide in tangible ways.

“We thank those who have been so instrumental in seeing it passed. For American corporations to continue to profit off of the Uyghur genocide is intangible as it conflicts with our values and those of humanity.” CFU Executive Director Rushan Abbas said in the group’s statement. 

 “This comes as a result of the dedication and hard work of Senator Marco Rubio, Congressman James McGovern, and other allies, including Representative Tom Suozzi, Representative Jennifer Wexton, Senator John Cornyn, Senator Jeff Merkley and so many more,” it added.

The US along with several other countries including Canada, the UK, and the Netherlands, have already declared that China is committing genocide and crimes by targeting Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups as they stated that as many as 2 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China placed under detention centres.

Though China maintains that the detention camps equipped with high-tech network of surveillance systems are necessary to counter Islamic extremism, Uighur expert Professor Rachel Harris from School of Arts at SOAS, University of London argues that the huge numbers involved, and the detention of many Uyghur cultural leaders – writers and poets, academics and publishers, singers and comedians – suggest that the camps are designed to eradicate local languages and cultures to remould the region’s peoples as secular and patriotic Chinese citizens.

While the bill awaits to be signed by the US President Joe Biden now, which the White House has hinted the President will do so, media reports stated that it could set a precedent for other countries to follow suit.

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