Under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, passed at the end of 2021, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will now block all imports made in the region. It will also block goods made by firms outside the region, whose links with Xinjiang companies or the Xinjiang government make them complicit — in the Department of Commerce’s view — in forced labor practices.
“Importers should prove to authorities with ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that the goods are not produced by forced labor should they want to resume the imports,” the CBP said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the ban underscores the Biden administration’s commitment to combating forced labor everywhere.
“We are rallying our allies and partners to make global supply chains free from the use of forced labor, to speak out against atrocities in Xinjiang, and to join us in calling on the government of the (People’s Republic of China) to immediately end atrocities and human rights abuses, including forced labor,” Blinken said.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce responded on Tuesday by saying it was “resolutely opposed” to the ban, which it said “gravely hurts the interests of companies and consumers in both countries.”
“The truth is Chinese laws explicitly ban forced labor,” the ministry said, adding that China will take “necessary actions” to protect its national interests.
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 are reportedly “subjected to torture, cruel and inhumane treatment such as physical and sexual abuse, forced labor, and death.”
China has described the facilities as “vocational training centers,” and claimed in 2019 such centers had been closed. Officials have consistently denied all allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.