Biden signs bill punishing China for Uyghur abuses

President Biden is seen prior to making remarks regarding the the bipartisan infrastructure deal during an event at the Port of Baltimore’s Dundalk-Marine Terminal in Baltimore Md., on Wednesday, November 10, 2021.
Greg Nash

President Biden on Thursday signed into law a bill that aims to punish China for human rights abuses against ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang region.

The bipartisan legislation, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent last week, bans imports of goods from China’s Xinjiang region unless individuals or companies demonstrate that the materials were made without forced labor.

The bill, called the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, is the latest effort by the U.S. to punish China for alleged abuse of millions of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. The U.S. has accused China of committing genocide against Uyghurs.

Last week, the Biden administration blacklisted elements of China’s biotechnology sector that officials said are involved in human rights abuses. 

In a statement announcing that Biden had signed the legislation, the White House thanked the legislation’s cosponsors, Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Rubio in a statement Thursday called the legislation “the most important and impactful action taken thus far by the United States to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for their use of slave labor.”

“It will fundamentally change our relationship with Beijing,” Rubio said. “This law should also ensure that Americans no longer unknowingly buy goods made by slaves in China. I look forward to working with the Biden Administration and my colleagues to ensure the new law is implemented correctly and enforced properly.”

The legislation passed the House in a voice vote last week after a compromise version was worked out and passed the Senate thereafter.

The White House did not initially take a position on the legislation but expressed support for the compromise version last week.

“The Administration will work closely with Congress to implement this bill to ensure global supply chains are free of forced labor, while simultaneously working to on-shore and third-shore key supply chains, including semiconductors and clean energy,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement last week.

Tags China Chris Smith Chuck Schumer Jeff Merkley Jen Psaki Joe Biden Marco Rubio Nancy Pelosi Uighur Muslims Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Xinjiang province

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