Biden Signs Bipartisan Law Punishing China Over Uyghur Abuse
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law a bill banning goods from China’s Xinjiang region unless companies can prove they aren’t made with forced labor, a move that will add to tensions over Beijing’s treatment of the nation’s Uyghur minority.
The bill passed with unanimous backing in both the House and Senate earlier this month, showcasing how Republicans and Democrats are largely aligned on China policy despite Washington’s deep partisan divisions on most major issues.
The measure is motivated by concern about the oppression of Uyghur Muslims in a region that holds a major place in global supply chains. Xinjiang is a source for cotton used in clothing and is a key location for producing polysilicon used in solar panels, which in turn are seen as crucial in the global shift away from fossil fuels.
The new law could pose a significant challenge for American and other firms that source items from Xinjiang for products used in the U.S. Even before Biden signed the bill, Intel Corp. found itself embroiled in controversy after the chipmaker asked suppliers not to use any labor or products sourced from Xinjiang and then apologized for the move.
The act “maliciously denigrates the human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang in disregard of facts and truth,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a Friday statement, urging the U.S. to “correct the mistake immediately.”
“China will make further response in light of the development of the situation,” the ministry added.
The bill requires the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to create a list of entities that collaborate with the Chinese government in the repression of the Uyghurs, a predominately Muslim ethnic minority, as well as other groups. It also contains a “rebuttable presumption” that assumes all goods from the region were made with forced labor unless the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection gives an exception.
Chinese officials deny that forced labor is used in Xinjiang and call the legislation interference in the nation’s domestic affairs -- a line reiterated recently by Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian at a regular press briefing in Beijing.
“By fabricating lies and making troubles with such issues, some U.S. politicians are seeking to contain China,” he said. “Their vile scheme will never succeed.”
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