US President Joe Biden Thursday signed into law the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (H.R. 6256), which seeks to ban goods wholly or partially produced in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region connected to the ongoing Uyghur genocide and forced labor in the region.
The act stems from the prohibition under section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 against goods made using forced labor. The Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force, established in 2020, was also directed to produce a report within six months, including a strategy for enforcing the Tariff Act to prevent such imports as well as additional measures to trace the origins and supply chains of goods. The report will contain lists of such goods and entities in Xinjiang producing or exporting such goods or working with the Xinjiang government to recruit or transport forced labor. Goods and entities on these lists will be presumed to be banned unless proven otherwise, and the report will guide importers and US Customs and Border Protection in identifying them. By amending section 6(a)(1) of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act enacted in 2020 to include a reference to forced labor, the act enables the imposition of sanctions against any foreign person as required by the report.
The act provides humanitarian assistance, including resettlement and advocacy, for those affected by human trafficking in China, especially Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Tibetans. Further, the Act empowers the US to “lead the international community” in addressing the situation in Xinjiang using bilateral diplomatic channels and multilateral institutions.
In a press release, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stated that forced labor has been a priority for the Biden administration, exemplified by previous measures such as visa restrictions, import restrictions, and financial sanctions under Global Magnitsky, the US sanctions regime against human rights violators. On the last day of the previous Trump administration, the US declared that China had committed genocide against Muslim Uyghurs, among other religious and ethnic minorities.
The act comes in the wake of a US diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics. It will stay in force for eight years or until the president determines that China has ended its violations of human rights in Xinjiang.