The US is rallying its friends against forced labour as it implements an import restriction on commodities from China’s Xinjiang province, where it alleges Beijing is committing genocide against the Uyghurs. US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) began enforcing the Uighur Forced Labour Prevention Act on June 21.
All commodities from Xinjiang, where Chinese authorities created detention camps for Uighurs and other Muslim groups, are made with forced labour and forbidden from import unless proven otherwise. We are encouraging our allies and partners to ensure global supply chains free of forced labour, to speak out against atrocities in Xinjiang, and to join us in pressing on the PRC to cease atrocities and human rights abuses immediately, said US State Secretary Antony Blinken.
We’ll keep reminding companies of US legal obligations with our interagency partners, he said. Xinjiang’s mining, agriculture, and industry are flourishing. From the region, the US imports peppers, walnuts, electrical equipment, and polysilicon for solar panels. It produces 20% of the world’s cotton and 80% of China’s. Sheffield Hallam University produced a paper in mid-June documenting forced labour in Xinjiang to manufacture PVC, a floor tiling component. Academics and media organisations have issued papers revealing Uighurs’ forced labour in internment camps.
China first denied the existence of such facilities but later maintained they were vocational training centres to counteract religious and separatist extremism in the region. In recent years, Xinjiang has restricted cultural and religious activities and been accused of forced sterility and arbitrary detention, which some western nations call genocide.
Rights groups have asked for years that shirts, pants, and other Xinjiang-made goods be held accountable for working conditions. China dismisses forced labour charges as a “huge fabrication” and has threatened retaliation. The restriction deepens pressure on Beijing, as Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin said: “The US wants to drive unemployment in Xinjiang and disconnect the world from China with this law.
As US Customs enforces a restriction on Xinjiang imports, Chinese enterprises and shops brace for mayhem. Asian garment suppliers, multinational retail chains, US solar-panel makers, and Chinese floor tile material makers could have US-bound shipments detained. The Uighur Forced Labour Prevention Act states that all US-bound imports traced to Xinjiang, including cotton, tomatoes, floor tile, and solar panel materials, were created using forced labour and should be seized. US authorities intercepted more than 900 cargo from the region in 2021 under trade prohibitions. Trade and business groups warned the new law’s unclear phrasing jeopardised China’s $500 billion in annual US sales. US customs said it will strictly implement the rules, which threaten to worsen Washington-Beijing relations. Zhao Lijian, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, said a week before the ban, “If the legislation is enforced, it will significantly disrupt regular cooperation between China and the US, and world industrial and production chains.” “If the US insists, China will take strong steps to protect its rights, interests, and dignity.
Detainees are reportedly being relocated out of Xinjiang to work in other parts of China, and components made in the province have been tracked to US-bound shipments from elsewhere in China. The law could strain China’s pandemic-affected supply lines.